Devil’s Advocate: Security For Anthony Chickillo

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: How likely is third-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo to make the 53-man roster?

For the past couple of years, the Steelers have carried five outside linebackers. Though that is not uncommon, it seemed to have become the norm. Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, they return four of those five linebackers, minus Jarvis Jones.

Based purely on the perceived pecking order by the end of last season, it would seem that Chickillo was ahead of Arthur Moats, when they needed somebody to start while Bud Dupree was out. But that won’t be the case anymore.

While he had a couple of hustle sacks, Chickillo on a down-to-down basis may have been the Steelers’ least effective pass rusher, certainly less effective than their starters, and less effective than Moats as well, who has always been at least competent throughout his tenure with the team.

We are looking at a draft in which it is very realistic that the Steelers draft two outside linebackers, though, and that will most likely mean that one currently on the roster will not be in September. Chickillo has an edge in being a core special teamer, but he also has the burden of retaining eligibility for the practice squad—cue exultations that he will obviously be claimed.

Let’s assume for this scenario that the Steelers do draft a pair of outside linebackers, and they do so within the first four rounds. Let’s also assume that both of them are going to make the roster. What happens after that?

I don’t think we have an answer in April. Chickillo and Moats will have to compete for an opportunity to retain their roster spot. In Chickillo’s favor is a cheaper contract. In Moats’ favor is more consistent pass rushing, an exemplary locker room guy, and greater versatility within the defense.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • John Pennington

    Moates and Chick should be in trouble in losing their roster spot if the Steelers draft 2 OLB.Both don’t show anything to keep them around.

  • Boots

    Moats’ contract isn’t that big that it should make it the determining factor, as far as I’m concerned, with our cap situation. What I want most is to add as much competition here and the DB’s as possible and hope that injuries don’t factor in to letting the cream rise to the top! If that means both Moats and Chick are gone I’m OK with that, but I just want everyone to bring their best to camp and let the competition sort itself out!

  • Big Joe

    I agree that the team may take 2 OLBs this year but I think that it all depends on the rounds within which they are taken. A late round pick is likely going to have a tough time beating out Chickillo for that 5th spot and would end up on PS while he gets stronger and works on technique. If both are taken in first 4 rounds, I would agree that there would be a problem. However, given Harrison’s lifetime warranty nearing its end and Moats’ contract expiring at end of year, I think it likely that Chickillo survives because he still has this year and next on his contract to help STs out; therefore Moats would then be on the short end of the roster stick. I would agree that Chickillo was ahead of Moats for most of season so it would make sense to me that Moats has the most to worry about.

  • WreckIess

    I think he’s safe no matter what, but he won’t be getting very many defensive snaps especially if they double dip. He’s a cheap young core special teamer with a little more upside. So he’d probably be a 2nd team OLB until our 2nd draft pick was up to speed then they’d take over.

  • Consistent

    If the 2nd LB the Steelers select comes in the 7th round(ala Dave’s latest mock)I believe both guys will be back being that the rookie would probably be stashed on the practice squad.

    But if Watt is selected at #30 it’s trouble for these guys because their personal fan bases will instantly clamor to see Watt get whatever snaps D-Bo and Budweiser don’t take

  • Shane Mitchell

    Not sure if any of you have ever had a high ankle sprain before, but he played most of the season with it, not a surprise his pass rush suffered. its extremely painful and takes away all of your explosive movement. I am confident he will make the roster and contribute as a pass rusher.

  • Biggie

    Double-dipping at Edge rusher and secondary (S, CB) is very likely in this draft, not to mention bringing in some UDFAs to compete as well. If 4 picks go towards that, then still have 4 picks to address ILB, WR, TE, RB and subtracting one of those if they go either DL or QB at any point, which I truly hope they wait till next year to do at QB with such a poor class of QBs in this years class.

  • mokhkw

    I asked Alex about his burst compared to what he saw in camp vs the regular season & he said that Chickillo didn’t show anywhere near the get off he reported in camp before he hurt his ankle.

    He got hurt in camp and from memory twice more during the season. Clearly he wasn’t 100% at any stage last year but he still showed a couple of flashes, most notably vs Dallas.

    He’ll make the 53 even if the Steelers draft 2 OLBs in the first 3 rounds. He’s still ahead Of Moats & is the younger, cheaper option.

  • Robert E Lil

    That guy is a super start waiting to happen. It kills me that this talk about his ability to stay on the team is in question. If the Steelers valued production as much as they do draft position – Chickillo would be on the field a lot this year. The Patriots would love, and I mean LOVE for the Steelers to release him

  • Brad Lucas

    I feel like both will make the final roster. Chickillo as olb and moats can play ilb too, I believe. I do feel better with moats at ilb along with dirty red for depth. Just my two cents.

  • Trevor

    I don’t claim to know the nuances of OLB vs ILB, but I recall Moats played inside for Buffalo. Does he demonstrate the ability in a 3-4 to move inside for us and improve that depth? Does that flexibility give him some security?

  • Brad Lucas

    It was more of a personal opinion from my standpoint. I’ve never seen him lined up inside for the Steelers, but I believe he has the necessary skillset and already knows the defense.

  • Trevor

    Somehow I never saw your post, but looks like we were thinking the same thing. I think Moats brings some solid veteran leadership that’s worth keeping in the locker room and on the field, and I think he has the understanding of the defense (as you said) to kick inside to add depth if there’s an injury to the starters.

  • Moats has 11.5 sacks over 3 years in a reserve role and Chickillo has shown steady progress. I see no reason to usher them off the roster unless we draft OLB’s in rounds 1 and 2. Both are valuable depth and special teams contributors. How many sacks did Jarvis have in his 4 years?

  • Smitty 6788

    Easy one for me Chickillo is only a ST guy. One of the 2 rooks can fill the void. Moats is veteran who seems to find his way to the Qb.


    Agreed…unless he totally falls apart, I think he makes the team on his ST work and knowledge of the DEF alone.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Yep, it all depends on how many they draft. They didn’t exactly catch lightning in a bottle with Chick, but it was probably worth the try.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t think they cut both if they draft two. Remember, Harrison is only going to be here one or two years, so I’m pretty confident they’ll want to be carrying five. They retain four from last year, so adding two makes six.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Technically Chickillo is actually an exclusive rights signing. Remember, he spent time on the practice squad, which means his rookie contract was torn up. He’ll be a restricted free agent in 2018.

  • Matthew Marczi

    All I know is that when he was originally signed nobody outside of the front office and coaching staff was really sure if he was going to play inside or outside.

  • Big Joe

    Quite right, so he has this year and next year on his contract as I mentioned. From my vantage point, he’s a good ST contributor and can spell the starters when needed. Thus, Moats is the one with lesser value it seems because, if all holds as it did last year, he was behind Chickillo on depth chart. Either way, one of them is going to be pressed by the new kid on the block – or both of them if high picks.

  • dany

    If I recall correctly he played ILB when the bills were in a 4-3, but they were a hybrid for his first two years. They were only truly a 3-4 in his last year, and a full 4-3 in his third year. Their hybrid 3-4 and last year 3-4 he was completely an OLB, but he seems like a jack of all trades so it wouldn’t surprise me. If they dont get an ILB in the draft I’m sure he’s the backup plan as the, well, backup

  • Beeze

    Totally agree Brad. Have often thought that maybe the backup to Shazier is already in the building. Moats has versatile skill set imo and could help the team inside as the top Mack backup.

  • Aj Gentile

    I don’t see how Moats makes it over Chick

  • LucasY59

    definitely Chickillo, Moats could be a cap cut and Anthony has more of a future, Moats has some positive attributes but he also has hit his ceiling as far as on the field, so even though the other stuff is good, it doesnt help the team as much, Chickillo was able to beat out Arthur in the middle of his 2nd season so he should be even better than Moats this yr