The Pittsburgh Steelers have up until now been fortunate to have all of their pass rushers healthy and able to log a healthy number of snaps through the first game of the season. James Harrison recently was listed as probable with a thumb injury, but that has been about it.
This week, the Steelers are listing Jarvis Jones as questionable. Should he be unable to go, that roster spot will likely be given to Anthony Chickillo, who was called up from the practice squad two weeks ago when Harrison’s name made the injury report for the first time.
When he was first called up, the assumption was that he would dress, but that proved not to be the case for the past two weeks. Ultimately, it wasn’t particularly surprising, as the Steelers were still dressing four outside linebackers during games without him.
This time, however, they may be down one of their pass rushers, all of whom have been consistently logging time. Each of their four primary pass rushers at outside linebacker have logged between about 150 and 200 snaps through the first five games, speaking not only to an affinity for, but a commitment to, rotation at the spot.
While the Steelers could ostensibly do with a three-man rotation—starting left outside linebacker Arthur Moats actually started most of the 2014 season on the right side, and has briefly played there this season—one figures that they would like to keep the balance of four rushers is possible to keep the pressure coming with fresh legs.
We do know that the learning curve is not an impediment to him getting on the field, as rookie Bud Dupree has been a regular contributor since the opening game of the season, and by all accounts, Chickillo, a fellow rookie, was ahead of Dupree developmentally in terms of being able to run the system and play within it.
Dupree, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick, has a tremendous amount of raw physical attributes, as he has been able to show through the early part of the season, and has helped him contribute to the defense early.
On the other hand, he has had some issues to work on in both run support and as a pass rusher, including building a wider variety of pass rush moves and learning how to set them up. He also needs to more consistently set the edge against the run.
These are facets of the game that were seemingly in Chickillo’s comfort zone in executing as one of the Steelers’ most heavily used defenders during the preseason. A sixth-round draft pick, he lacks many of Dupree’s physical traits, but was able to show early growth because of his knowledge of the game.
Should Jones sit out, though, the deciding factor as to whether or not he dresses may come down to the opinion of Danny Smith, the special teams coach. The Steelers ran Chickillo out with nearly every special teams unit during the preseason, but it was not in his college background.