It doesn’t take much for a player to become a fan favorite. He doesn’t really even need to play very much for it to happen. That has certainly been the case for second-year Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo after spending 22 snaps on defense and 49 more on special teams during the regular season.
Because he is such a fan favorite, however, it is probably worth passing along the little tidbit shared by Chris Adamski yesterday that Chickillo has dropped a full 30 pounds since his was drafted, now hovering around the 250-pound mark, but more importantly, he says it’s where he feels more comfortable.
Adamski writes that the weight drop was “of Chickillo’s preference. So was the move to outside linebacker”. He of course played the defensive end position at Miami in college where he played at a weight of over 280 pounds, which he feels was not suited to his body size.
“I felt like I should have been playing this position all along”, he told Adamski. “I felt like I should have played it in college”. Chickillo was a very highly-recruited player coming out of high school but never quite lived up to his billing, which resulted in him becoming a sixth-round draft pick, but evidently he feels he could have been a more productive player if he was able to play at linebacker all along.
It’s one thing, of course, to just get to the weight and position that you would prefer, and it is another thing to integrate and adjust to it after spending your college career playing at a different weight and a different position. Whether you prefer it or not, it becomes what you know, and it requires time and effort, not to mention patience, to relearn the game from another perspective, physically and mentally.
Adamski’s article emphasizes the increased level of comfort that he feels entering his second offseason, and improved level of comfort with the defense, his coaches, his confidence, and everything else, including being able to slide in to what he believes is his natural position.
“There’s something into that” he said, referring to having had a year of dropping and playing at a different weight, “getting comfortable with your body weight and playing at that same weight for a longer period of time (rather than) getting there and having to adjust to it while you’re doing it”.
That can certainly be a fair categorization of Chickillo’s rookie season, who had to scrape and claw to make it as the team’s rare fifth outside linebacker—a spot he will have competition for this year—all the while in a sort of a whirlwind with his efforts of not only dropping weight and learning the position, but also figuring out how to contribute to special teams.
While it is still uncertain at best that he will be able to crack the Steelers’ four-man rotation at outside linebacker in his second season, he will certainly be in a better place mentally, perhaps better than he has been since high school, now that he is not only in the spot that he believes he should be playing, but in the body that he wants to play in, and having the comfort of having had a year’s worth of experience in both now.