Steelers Film Room: Anthony Chickillo, Pass Rusher

Since Anthony Chickillo’s selection in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft two months ago, there has been much talk amongst the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful about what position the former Miami defensive lineman should play in the NFL. I’ve engaged in much of that discussion, feeling strongly that Chickillo lacks the traits to play a full-time outside linebacker role in Pittsburgh. Today we’ll examine his pass rushing tape from a couple of college games during his senior season.

Chickillo wasn’t particularly effective in college as a pass rusher despite lining up at several spots, totaling just 15.5 sacks over four years as a starter. That isn’t an all-encompassing analysis, but when watching Chickillo’s tape, he’s simply just a guy at the college level. There just isn’t any explosiveness, lateral agility, physical traits, or bend to get excited about when watching him off the edge.

Here’s an example of his lack of effectiveness when attacking from a wider technique. Chickillo gets a great first step here to beat the tackle off the snap, but because there is no acceleration to win the corner, his pass rush is soon stymied.

Once engaged with the offensive lineman, Chickillo still has two options. He can rip underneath the tackle’s punch and flatten to the quarterback, or he can rely on hand usage and physicality to go through the blocker to the passer. 

Chickillo doesn’t attempt to bend the edge, because it simply isn’t in his repertoire as I’ll point out again shortly. There is a head-to-head confrontation and hand fight, but Chickillo doesn’t have the power or top-notch hand usage to win quickly in these situations. A stalemate ensues, and Jameis Winston is able to get the pass away unscathed.

“Stalemate” may as well be Chickillo’s middle name, as he typically is strong and smart enough not to get pushed around by opposing linemen, but really struggles to get off blocks and impact the play. 

Bull rush attempt by Chickillo from an interior pass rush is completely shut down, as the Miami defensive lineman also fails to get much push to collapse the pocket. Granted this is just one snap, but quite honestly this is what most of Chickillo’s pass rushes look like, especially from an inside technique.

Here’s another example just a couple of plays later.

But again, Chickillo has to win with power as a pass rusher, because he doesn’t have agility or hands to counter consistently, and lacks the explosion and hip flexibility to win the edge. The Miami product is very aware of his limitations, but that doesn’t make him more effective unfortunately.

Again, first step is solid, but there is no quickness to get to the corner before the offensive tackle is comfortably in his set. Initial burst doesn’t win, and Chickillo gets stranded without a plan.

Because of his effort, motor, and intensity off the snap however, Chickillo was effectively used as a decoy quite often by the Miami coaches. Some have said that this was a misusage of his skills, but the more I watch him the more I tend to believe that it was simply where he could help the team the most.

Chickillo comes inside on the twist and eats up two (almost three) blocks by attacking aggressively. The offensive tackle is late on the switch and the resulting pressure on Winston forces a tough throw. This was a staple of Miami’s defense, so it isn’t out of the question that Chickillo will give the Steelers some of the same ability, thanks to his sturdy frame, football IQ, and physicality at the point of attack.

But decoys are simply easy to find in the NFL, so Chickillo is going to have to prove himself as a pass rusher, especially if he is going to find a home at outside linebacker in Pittsburgh. Chickillo simply doesn’t possess many pass-rushing qualities to get excited about, meaning he might be best suited for rotational work as a run-stopping presence in the Steelers defense, a role we’ll examine for him tomorrow.

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