With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Anthony Chickillo.
I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize Anthony Chickillo right now as a spare part. I know his fan club might not be thrilled at that, but it’s the only reasonable characterization of the player who is currently ostensibly fifth on the depth chart of a position at which they sometimes carry only four.
It is accomplishment enough that the Steelers felt strongly enough about Chickillo that they (eventually) carried him on the 53-man roster as not just a fifth outside linebacker, but also a 10th linebacker overall, and from a numbers standpoint alone, that certainly accounts for something.
He is an intriguing player from a potential standpoint, but it is important to keep in mind that we are still dealing in potential when it comes to Chickillo, because he has shown very little in his admittedly very few regular season opportunities.
Most important is the fact that he seemed to acquit himself well on special teams after he has not done that in college, but it should be noted that the team’s sixth-round linebacker this year, Travis Feeney, was an accomplished special teams player in college, and Chickillo will have to hold him off in that regard.
He may be a spare part now, so to speak, but that could quick quickly and dramatically in a year’s time with the pending free agency next season of Jarvis Jones and the potentially (perhaps likely) retirement of James Harrison, which would quickly whittle things down to Bud Dupree, a still largely unproven high pedigree, and Arthur Moats, who is an excellent backup.
The young man has changed a lot, physically, over the past year, making the very rare conversion from college 3-4 defensive end to pro-level 3-4 outside linebacker, when typically it is undersized 4-3 college ends who make that conversion.
With a year in his new body, and in the system, Chickillo should be set up to make a nice jump from year one to year two, but it will also be imperative for his future that he do so. He mainly showed last preseason that he could play fundamentally sound and without many mental errors. He needs to show that he can make an impact, particularly around the edge, this summer.