There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: Anthony Chickillo
Draft Status: 6th round (212nd overall)
When the Steelers drafted Anthony Chickillo in the sixth round, it was hard to understand why for many. For starters, it wasn’t clear what position he might be. Would he be a defensive end, as he was in college? Would he move to outside linebacker?
While they point was clarified after the pick was made, with the Steelers explaining that they drafted him to play linebacker, the fact remained that they had already drafted a linebacker in the first round, with three others that were already locks to make the roster—not to mention five inside linebackers likely to make the team.
Were they throwing away a draft pick on a player not likely to make the team due simply to sheer numbers? There were already at least nine linebackers ahead of him more likely to make the team, and they also brought in some interesting competition at the outside spot, including last year’s practice squad player.
But Chickillo ultimately beat out all comers, impressing coaches once players put their pads on in training camp because of his advanced knowledge and understanding of the game—having been a third-generation NFL player—in spite of the fact that he was just entering the league.
And that, in addition to his relentless hustle, is and has remained his greatest asset, because he doesn’t possess any immediately striking physical traits the way Bud Dupree does. If Chickillo is to succeed in this league, it’s going to be more with his heart and his brain than with his speed or strength, so to speak.
But he did make the 53-man roster—and then was cut and spent two weeks on the practice squad. But it was only a short while before he was brought back up, and while he spent most of the time inactive, he recorded six tackles and a forced fumble on special teams.
He even saw action in one game, logging 22 snaps, though without registering an official statistic. With the future of the position outside of Dupree remaining uncertain beyond 2016, the Steelers saw no problem carrying an extra body around. They see something in Chickillo that they can develop. Assuming he makes the roster again, he’ll still have a hard time contributing this year, however.