When the name Anthony Chickillo was first read during yesterday’s draft as the 212nd overall selection going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was a lack of clarity as to what exactly that was going to entail in the long run.
Chickillo, a college defensive end at 6’3”, 267 lbs. out of Miami, seemed to be a classic tweener who is too small to play as a 3-4 end but perhaps not agile enough to make the conversion to outside linebacker.
The question as to where he would line up was answered when Joey Porter was the one who walked up to the microphone for the post-selection press conference. The first-year outside linebackers coach was clear in identifying the Steelers’ intentions for Chickillo as a conversion project that they believe has shown the capacity to do it successfully.
Of course, the Steelers have had mixed success with converting college defensive ends, with the high point being LaMarr Woodley and the low end being Bruce Davis. But as a compensatory sixth-round draft pick, it’s not a major expenditure either way.
The more interesting item about this draft pick, in my opinion, is simply his size and how he appears to fit a profile for the outside linebacker that Pittsburgh was looking for moving forward, as they seemed to be low on strong-side linebackers after Jason Worilds’ retirement.
Arthur Moats projects as the opening day starter at Worilds’ vacated left outside linebacker spot. At 6’2” and listed at 250 lbs., he does not have the ideal size to match up against right tackle-tight end combinations in the running game.
Porter, a prototypical weak side rusher for the Steelers, said during his press conference that 250 lbs. was the heaviest he played at, calling it his “fighting weight”, and if we’re being honest, he was more of a pass rusher than a run defender.
So with a spot open on the strong side, the Steelers drafted Bud Dupree out of Kentucky, a 6’4”, 269 lbs. college 3-4 outside linebacker with experience putting his hand in the ground as a 3-4 end in sub-packages.
Notice the similarity in size between Dupree and Chickillo, both 6’3” or above and nearly 270 lbs. That sounds like a profile to me, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The Steelers were looking for rushers of this size, and they took them where they could find them.
While Porter suggested during his press conference that that is the norm at linebacker nowadays, that narrative doesn’t really fit the reality, outside of Dante Fowler, Jr. at the top of the draft. Outside of Fowler and Dupree, there were only two other natural outside linebackers taken that were in the 260 lbs. range.
Even Shane Ray, an end drafted as an outside linebacker, only weighs 245 lbs. While many 3-4 teams looked at Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the man with the exact same measurable as Chickillo was drafted as a 4-3 end. In light of that, I find it hard to accept that this pairing of rushers was a happenstance.