Steelers Film Room: Anthony Chickillo, Run Defender

Yesterday we examined Pittsburgh Steelers sixth rounder Anthony Chickillo as a pass rusher, displaying his struggles to win consistently in that area. With Pittsburgh looking to fit the 6-3, 270-pound defensive lineman into an outside linebacker role, Chickillo’s lack of movement skills, athleticism, and premier pass-rushing traits could expose him quickly.

One area where Chickillo shows much more prowess is against the run. He’s by no means a star in this department, but one advantage that he does bring to the table is his ability to hold up at the point of attack. Rarely does Chickillo get much push or penetration, but his ability to stack blockers and two-gap is rare for a player his size. He’ll likely need to continue to add bulk to man that role in the NFL, but for Miami this was his strong suit.

Here’s an example against Louisville. Chickillo doesn’t necessarily make the play, but he holds the line of scrimmage with excellent arm extension and power in his lower half that comes from sinking his hips and creating a firm base.

The offensive lineman can’t move him, and Chickillo is able to maintain gap control and eventually shed the block. Someone else makes the tackle, but Chickillo played his assignment perfectly and kept the running back from finding space to accelerate into.

No one doubts Chickillo’s heart or physicality at the line of scrimmage. That work ethic carries over into the weight room, where Chickillo puts in plenty of time to become a powerful player in the trenches. Great example of that comes in another play against Louisville.

Off the snap Chickillo again shows great extension and strength to hold his position, but this time he actually keeps his legs driving and dumps the offensive lineman while working his way down the line of scrimmage. Because Chickillo wins the leverage battle right off of the snap and never stops moving his feet, he’s able to join in on a huge 3rd-and-one stop despite the play being run away from him. Excellent play by the defensive lineman.

Handling doubles is probably out of the question, and that is ok. I never saw him beat one in his college tape, and sometimes the results were ugly, like this one by a tight end and a tackle.

Sometimes I think Chickillo’s high energy style actually wore him out late in games. He doesn’t necessarily have outside contain responsibility here, but he gets sealed inside far too easily and quickly.

This will happen a little too often for my liking, as Chickillo seems like he has nothing left in the tank on some snaps. That’s a credit to how hard he goes on a regular basis, but still a concern if he ever projects to a full-time role.

For the most part however, Chickillo is a very solid run defender who plays assignment sound football with an understanding of one-gapping and two-gapping principles. His leverage and power at the point of attack allow him to control the space and free up other defenders to make tackles. You won’t see many splash plays or penetration stops from the Miami product, but his presence and hard work will often free those opportunities up for his teammates.

Of course, at outside linebacker, you’re asking Chickillo to be the one to make those plays in space and out on the perimeter. As an edge run defender I believe he’d fare much better than as a pass rusher, but I still don’t see outside linebacker as his best position. He simply isn’t the type of athlete that will excel in that role, but let him battle in the trenches with length, leverage and physicality, and he just might be able to make an impact on a rotational basis. Put him in a two-point stance, and you’re taking away his ability to utilize his best traits.

Obviously the Steelers see Chickillo differently for now, and only time will tell where the Miami defensive end fits best in the NFL, or if he fits at all. Just to give you an idea of what some NFL organizations were thinking heading into the draft, here’s a quote from one NFC Director of Scouting, as told to’s Lance Zierlein.

“He doesn’t have a position as far as I can tell. I don’t think he projects inside or outside. He’s just caught between positions and there isn’t anything that he does really well.”

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