With the 2022 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, one can expect NFL teams to begin shedding players who may (or may not) be replaced by rookie draft picks. The Tennessee Titans began that process in earnest on Monday May 2, waiving four players, including former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tuzar Skipper.
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Steelers fans will recall that Skipper, 26, demonstrated impressive pass rush skills during the summer of 2019, which led late Steelers radio broadcaster Tunch Ilkin to dub him the team’s “camp phenom.” He went on to record 16 tackles and five sacks during the preseason, good enough to make the 53-man roster as the team’s fifth outside linebacker. But he was waived prior to the start of the regular season to make room for wide receiver Johnny Holton, and was immediately claimed by the New York Giants.
Skipper went on to play in six games for the Giants before the Steelers plucked him off New York’s practice squad in December 2019, taking the opportunity to sign him to a two-year contract extension. But he was released during the last round of cuts in the summer of 2020, and went on to spend most of that season on the Titans’ practice squad. He did appear in four games and make two starts, however, during which time he contributed five tackles, showing enough to earn a one-year Reserve/Future contract with Tennessee in 2021.
The Steelers’ Outlook at Outside Linebacker
It remains to be seen if Skipper gets another opportunity in the NFL. He turns 27 on June 5, 2022, and has managed just eight tackles, one fumble recovery and a half a sack in 10 career games, as per Pro Football Reference (PFR). It’s doubtful another opportunity will come with the Steelers, who have taken pains to try to improve the depth behind reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt and former third-round pick Alex Highsmith.
The Steelers addressed the issue in March by signing former Browns and Eagles linebacker Genard Avery to a one-year contract. Ten-year veteran John Simon — who inked a Reserve/Futures contract with the Steelers in January — might also be part of the solution.
Beyond that the Steelers still have former Denver Broncos seventh-round pick Derrek Tuszka, who was promoted to the active roster in late September of last year and went on to appear in 15 games in a backup role. Then there’s first-year player Delontae Scott, who spent much of last year on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, but got the chance to make his regular-season debut in November vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.
Last but not least, on April 30, 2022, the Steelers signed a pair of rookie undrafted free agents who play the position, those being Tyree Johnson (Texas A&M) and T.D. Moultry (Auburn), the former of whom had 18 sacks in college, including 8.5 sacks in 2021.
The Titans Still Employ 2 Ex-Steelers Linebackers
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans roster still features a pair of former Steelers linebackers, those being former Pittsburgh first-round pick Bud Dupree and fellow outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi. Both were signed by the Titans as unrestricted free agents in March 2021, with Dupree inking a five-year, $82.5 million deal and Adeniyi signing a modest one-year contract a week later.
But with Dupree still somewhat hindered by the torn ACL he suffered in early December 2020, Adeniyi had a stronger first season with the Titans, playing in 16 games and recording 21 tackles, including two tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits, according to PFR.
Adeniyi was also very nearly the hero in Tennessee’s overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks in September 2021, as he sacked quarterback Russell Wilson for what appeared to be a walk-off safety. Yet the ball was inexplicably placed at the one yard line, keeping Seattle alive for a few more plays.
All that said, it was a “no-brainer move” for the Titans to re-sign Adeniyi for the 2022 season.
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