Steelers Film Room: Outside Linebacker Anthony Chickillo


A lot of recent Pittsburgh Steelers roster talk has centered around how many linebackers the team will keep on the final 53, and if Anthony Chickillo’s name will be among those chosen. I’ve made the case that it should be, but the coaching staff has been very reluctant to give him more snaps over Shayon Green and even Howard Jones at times during camp and the preseason. Chickillo took snaps on the right side during the team’s first preseason game, so he’s definitely prepared to man both spots if necessary. I would love to see him get opportunities to play with Bud Dupree over Green, as Chickillo has clearly been more effective and is a better player in space.

One of the things I like the most about Chickillo is that he rarely gets manhandled at the line of scrimmage. He’s a strong dude, with good technique to lock out against blockers and keep their hands off his frame. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

JonChic1

 

Eyes on the ball, blocker off his frame, arms fully extended to shed when necessary. Positioning is sound, as he can work inside to help out with a tackle there if necessary, but has also set a hard edge and not given any ground to allow the back to work outside. Excellent technique and discipline from a rookie.


Setting the edge is something Chickillo already does like a seasoned veteran. Here he blows the offensive tackle off the ball, keeping his outside arm free and playing with outstanding leverage.

JonChic2

Chickillo actually has to take on a second blocker here, as the fullback (h-back) tries to attack his outside shoulder as well. Chickillo is able to fend him off with his one free arm, pursue the play to the boundary, and still work free to help out with the tackle. I know he isn’t facing Pro Bowlers, but you want to see your young guys do things the correct way, and Chickillo consistently shows excellent form in his all-around game.

Chickillo didn’t have a ton of chances to show off much as a pass rusher, but the glimpses I saw were encouraging. Once (the Green Bay Packers broadcast was annoyingly interviewing B.J. Raji during live action) Chickillo dipped the edge on an offensive tackle with a great first step, something I don’t think will be his bread-and-butter, but that he can clearly threaten teams with from an outside linebacker spot. His ability to win inside and out is enticing, especially if he can utilize his physicality like he did on this snap:

Great burst off the ball, then punched into the offensive tackle’s frame to knock him off balance. Only a quick release by the quarterback kept Chickillo from finishing this play. Love seeing the hand usage and violence from a young guy playing a new position.

How about counter moves, usually one of the later aspects to a young pass rusher’s development? In other words, how do you respond when your initial plan of attack is stymied?

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Here Chickillo tries to win the edge at first, but quickly sees that the offensive tackle has abandoned proper form to basically chase the edge rusher to the boundary. Rather than simply continue upfield and likely get run out of the play, Chickillo recognizes his opponent’s mistake (offensive tackle literally turns his back to the line of scrimmage) and seizes the opportunity to win inside quickly with a counter maneuver. Again, if not for a quick release by the quarterback, Chickillo has an easy sack here.

Once you recognize an offensive tackle has a tendency, exploit it. That is what veterans do. On the very next snap the same offensive tackle oversets again, and Chickillo counters inside quickly to force a hurried throw into double coverage. He may have even gotten a hand on the quarterback’s throwing arm, tough to tell from the TV broadcast.

Is Chickillo facing a low level of competition? Absolutely, but he’s excelling against these guys too. He had only 13 defensive snaps on Sunday, and he didn’t have any negative plays amongst them. This is a guy who needs to be playing snaps with your second team at this point. He’s far more well-rounded and consistent snap-to-snap than either Green or Jones, is a more developed player cerebrally, and plays with a nonstop motor and excellent physicality. What Chickillo needs is more snaps against better talent, and he’s done everything possible to earn those opportunities this Saturday against the Buffalo Bills.

You know what you have in Green and Jones, and it clearly isn’t good enough. Chickillo deserves a place on the 53-man roster, and has worked nonstop every day to prove it, even dropping 35 pounds to play a new position. Give him the opportunity to earn it against premier competition before the preseason is over.

  • Bryan Haines

    I’d really like to see Chickillo as one of our backups…give him some time and maybe he even pushes Jarvis for the starting spot! He is really a gem, a little unpolished, but a gem nonetheless! I hope he makes the 53!

  • JNick

    I just can’t see any fathomable reason that he is not on the 53 man roster. He’s exactly what you want in a developmental player

  • David K

    I don’t think he’ll make the 53. And I don’t think he’s done more than hojo and Vic soto did last year and no one grabbed them after we cut and ps’ed hojo. I keep hearing how well he’s doing in practice but in the game he’s done little to justify a spot…other than potential. I’d rather have Darby or wild. Chick to ps

  • 20Stoney

    I’m wondering if they are giving him so little game tape in an attempt to sneak him on the practice squad. There is no doubt he’s superior to Hojo and Green.

  • The GreekGeek

    The only reason he is left off is that they only keep 4 OLBs. Those other guys aren’t beating him. It will be injuries, and other positions like CB, S, WR, OL where we might keep more. With Garvin pretty much locked that makes 9 LBs locked to a roster spot. Hard to keep 10. I hope we keep him on the 53 though. I think he can play special teams too. I don’t know if it’s better than Ventrone, Wild, or Darby on ST but I think we have a better chance of stashing one of those guys on the PS than Chick.

  • PittsburghSports

    Noticed he was in a 3-point stance in one of those gifs. Looks like they were in their 2-4-5 Nickel, but Chickillo elected to put his hand on the ground.

  • falconsaftey43

    He hasn’t played much in PS, but just look at the clips above, he’s doing really good things when he is on the field.

  • PapaJuju

    I hope they’re not that stupid.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I have Chickillo making the 53-man roster. Every time I look at the possible 53-man roster, I think they’ll wind up keeping only 8 offensive lineman, unless they sign someone from another team that gets cut. I’ve finally been convinced they will keep 10 LB’s, and not 9. It looks like 3 QB, 4 RB, 5 WR, 3 TE, 8 OL, 3 Special Teams (Kicker, Punter, and Holder), 6 DL, 5 OLB, 5 ILB, 6 CB, and 5 Safeties. Of course, as we’ve seen, injuries could impact that.

  • steeltown

    At a point in time when we’ve been searching for stability at the position I dont see how you cant keep this kid on roster, regardless of the numbers game. Harrison wont be around forever and no guarantee Jarvis earns a 2nd contract. Im holding onto this one if im the FO

  • dano

    I agree. You have Pouncey, and MIke adams hopefully, on track to return by midseason. That’s 10 olinemen right there. Keep 1 or 2 on the PS for the time being, because injuries will strike. But dont lose talented players like Chikillo

  • falconsaftey43

    Here is the key thing. Is Chickillo the player they thought he was when they drafted him? I don’t see how the answer to that is anything but YES.

    So then it’s pretty simple, if they don’t keep him on the 53, it was a stupid pick. They knew they had 4 OLB roster locks, and 5 ILB roster locks. You can’t draft a guy who even if he is everything you’d hoped he’d be, is going to get cut anyway.

  • cp72

    I am really confused why they keep playing Shayon Green in front of him.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Falcon –

    This is probably the most intelligent argument I’ve read so far. The Steelers knew exactly what they had at OLB going into the draft. They knew Harrison, Jarvis, Moats, were locks. After day one of the draft, they knew Dupree was a lock.

    So if you’re only keeping 4 OLB’s… Why draft Chickillo? Why not draft an OL (when we need depth there so badly)? Why not use that pick to draft La’el Collins and call his bluff?

    Tomlin always says, it doesn’t matter where you were drafted. Once you get here, you’re all equal. The best players will earn spots. Does he really mean that? Because Chickillo has outperformed your 1st round pick.

    He dropped 20 pounds (just like you asked). He has shown an relentless motor (just like you asked). He has improved his pass rush technique to the point that he regularly beats the back up tackles you put him against (just like you asked). He has been solid against the run (just like you asked). He has shown good instincts in learning his new position (sniffing out screens, etc).

    If you’re not going to give him a fair opportunity to move up in the ranks and beat out Jarvis or Moats based on PERFORMANCE, than don’t draft him.

  • jconeoone C

    well said!

  • Patrick Sheridan

    He already has better instincts than JJ, only reason he doesn’t make 53 is the “we really need a veteran player” approach.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Blake jumping around the sideline in the 4th quarter of the game. Looked like he wanted to hop in to finish the interception.

  • falconsaftey43

    Or make room on the roster for him. I’m all for depth and injury insurance, but when you KNOW you have 4 guys that will make your roster, you have to be at least open to carrying 5 to justify drafting one. They’d already brought in Green, Lemon, and HoJo to provide competition at the bottom also, so it’s no like they were hurting for camp guys.

    I said the same thing last year about Zummwalt. They had Timmons, Williams, Spence (although he was coming off injury) and Garvin, then drafted Shazier. How was Zummwalt ever going to make the team?

  • Mrs Bighead

    The more I see from Chick, the more I like. I hope we make the right decision with this guy

  • Jimbo

    I don’t think the coaching staff will keep him. They prefer guys who know the system. even if he has an upside. The patriots , Cardinals, and Lions seem to like the Steeler cast-offs.

  • renoir

    what gets to me is how much more that chick has shown then Bud yet because where each was drafted, we may be looking at chick being waived and claimed by another team…And all because of where they were drafted, makes no sense…

  • Mike Thomas

    Tommlin is a reverse racist, and that’s why Chickillo isn’t getting playing time.
    Also why Worlids was drafted over Sean Lee.

  • NinjaMountie

    Reverse racist? So you mean he’s the reverse of a racist which means he isn’t a racist. Grow up.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Well, strictly speaking, ‘developmental’ players usually end up on the PS. But I get what you mean, he has done very well.
    So has, IMO, Ian Wild, who I certainly hope we keep at least on the PS and hopefully on the 53.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Exactly.
    Maybe we are all paranoid because of the loss of Williams and Mauro last year, poached off the PS, but certainly he seems to be perfect for STs. I think the #s by position thing you have to be flexible with if you have someone worth ‘hiding’.
    It’s funny, one Steelers website actually had him as ‘stock down’ which I thought was weird.

  • Ike Evans

    Exactly

  • SJDSteeler

    Maybe they are planning on trying to sneak him on the PS and don’t want good tape against the 2s for other teams to see?

  • Jon Ledyard

    What website was that?

  • Jon Ledyard

    Big fear is obviously that Chickillo wouldn’t clear waivers to be placed on the PS, and I believe he wouldn’t. Players aren’t plucked off waivers often, but a guy who just dropped 35 pounds to play OLB and has looked good doing it? Yeah, bunch of teams gonna be interested in him.

  • Jon Ledyard

    These are all plays from “the game”, just fyi.

  • Jon Ledyard

    I think we all are.

  • Jon Ledyard

    Kicker, Punter, Long Snapper you mean

  • Jon Ledyard

    Right, and I think the team will. Jarvis isn’t getting a 2nd contract and Harrison is one more year tops.

  • Milliken Steeler

    OMG. Where do you people come from? I really want to know, there must be some type of tree around here that you grown on.

    What is a reverse racist? Are you saying that when you look in the dictionary, under racist, there is a picture of a Caucasian? Racism is universal my friend. lol Reverse Racism. smh

  • Jon Ledyard

    I don’t think any team operates this way. A) team would call their bluff. B) How can they really know how talented he is? C) He hasn’t ran over Shayon in practice either. D) Why not just keep him if they’re that worried about him getting snagged by another team?

  • Jon Ledyard

    If this is serious, it is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You should sit a few plays out and consider retirement.

  • Steel PAul

    Here here..

  • Chad H

    I believe by mid season he will ne a solid backup player.

  • steeltown

    Yea I just don’t see enough OL talent on this 90man roster to warrant keeping