The buzz surrounding Ola Adeniyi throughout OTAs and training camp was impossible to ignore. No. 92 flew around the field disrupting plays, and terrorized tackles as he aggressively pursued the quarterback and ball carriers on seemingly every snap.
Heck, our own Chris Carter was so impressed by Adeniyi's "violent hands" in the early goings he dedicated an entire Classroom feature to him.
With such a strong showing of his pass-rushing skills and his potential there, it only made sense, then, when I asked Adeniyi about his improvements following the Steelers' 30-28 victory against the Buccaneers at Heinz Field Friday that he responded with this:
"Definitely special teams," Adeniyi said at his locker. "They harped on me getting better in that area and I just tried to show my best tonight. Just my run stopping as well, little things like that."
Oh, right. That. Adeniyi knows that, as much as his pass-rushing and his explosiveness caught the attention of fans and media alike, it's his work on special teams that will ultimately secure his spot on the team's final, 53-man roster. Stuff like this doesn't hurt:
That's Adeniyi combining with rookie Devin Bush on a crucial fourth-down stop, forcing the Buccaneers to turn the ball over on downs. But the reason I chose the picture atop this article — Adeniyi with special teams ace Tyler Matakevich — is because of this:
"I know my place," Adeniyi told me. "We have [Bud Dupree]. We have [T.J. Watt]. And we have [Anthony Chickillo] so for that last spot, you have to play special teams. That's the part of the game I'm focusing on. ... Defense, you know, that's going to come afterward. I just gotta focus on special teams."
As nice as the sacks and splash plays look on defense — and those are certainly welcome — it all comes down to that for Adeniyi. Hearing it in his words following the team's preseason victory only served to reinforce the fact that internal expectations for the team and its players don't always align with external buzz. While everyone focuses on Adeniyi's pass-rushing potential and his ability to disrupt plays at the line of scrimmage, he's focused on the gritty work on special teams and growing every day alongside the Steelers' veteran crew of outside linebackers.
"Oh, man, those guys have been great since I got here," Adeniyi said. "They've been developing me, helping me out. Bud as well. Bud, T.J., and Chick. All those guys, they took me under their wing when I got here. You know, [I'm an] undrafted guy, they didn't have to, but they did that. I really appreciated that."
Once all that's taken care of, Adeniyi has to admit: Hitting the quarterback is still pretty fun. It just never gets old.
"It definitely felt good, just being out there, being able to hit the quarterback actually," Adeniyi said of that first taste of preseason. "In practice you can't touch them."
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