As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take the fields at Saint Vincent College Saturday afternoon for what will be their eighth practice of their 2016 training camp, the buzz surrounding second-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo has reached a fever-pitch level.
During a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about how Chickillo is coming along in his development.
“It’s great to see the growth and development in second year players,” said Tomlin “We’re not bashful about the challenge that we present second-year players and we feel confident about challenging them. They’ve been a lap around the track, they know what’s expected and their play and preparation should reflect that. Guys like Chickillo and Sammie Coates are really showing you what that’s all about.”
Chickillo reportedly showed up to training camp this year a little lighter than he was when his rookie season ended and that dedication to his transformation has certainly showed up during the team’s first seven training camp practices. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has definitely noticed what one of the team’s two sixth-round draft picks last year is doing so far this offseason as evidenced by his comments made in a recent interview with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller.
“Anthony, he probably played at 272, 275 at Miami strictly as an end,” said Colbert of Chickillo. “He kicked inside sometimes in some sub packages for them, but we saw some athleticism that we thought would come through, especially when he lost the weight. A motor is his biggest asset, but he’s very athletic once he got that extra weight off, which he needed to play defensive line at Miami. Once he got that off and learned how to drop, learned coverages, the pass rush stuff it’s natural to him.
“You know his dad was a great player at the University of Miami, his grandfather was a great player, so Chick has done a nice job of fighting his way into where he is right now and I do expect that to continue. That kid, he’s relentless and I think he’ll be a contributor for us.”
Fellow Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats has also been impressed with his teammates’ development since he arrived in Pittsburgh.
“The thing with Chick, it’s an amazing story when you hear him talk how he played a 3-technique in a 3-4 scheme,” started Moats. “He was like 280-pounds and to see how he just transformed his body from the draft and him coming here to how he looks now, I mean he’s like down 20,25 pounds. Extremely quick, I mean the guy’s having an amazing camp and you can just tell he’s definitely put the work in. He’s made sure that he worked on his burst and also his coverage aspect of it so that he could be a more complete player. So, he’s looking really good out there.”
Chickillo will definitely be one of several Steelers players to watch closely during the team’s upcoming preseason games even though at this point it’s obvious he’ll make the final 53-man roster, which is something that he failed to do last year after all of the final cuts were made prior to the regular-season opener. While it’s yet to be seen whether or not Chickillo will receive a considerable amount of playing time this year with Moats, Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, and James Harrison all still likely ahead of him on the outside linebacker depth chart, a continued strong training camp, followed up be a very strong preseason, might ultimately make it hard for the coaching staff to not play him at least some in 2016.