If you have been following the various Pittsburgh Steelers training camp reports from a variety of sources, including our very own Alex Kozora, who will have no doubt noted frequent mention of certain players more than others. One of the names that seems to have been floated around a fair bit is second-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo.
Chickillo, a 2015 sixth-round draft pick, originally made the Steelers’ roster, but was released the next day to make room for a player claimed off waivers. He was signed to the practice squad, but was promoted to the 53-man roster a few weeks into the season.
From that point on, he slowly got a helmet and carved out a role for himself on special teams as a fifth outside linebacker. In one game that one of their right outside linebackers missed, Chickillo even received playing time on defense, to the tune of around a couple dozens, though he failed to register officially on the stat sheet.
By the way that he is looking so far in training camp, however, if you belief the many various reports, it may not be hard to imagine him receiving some sort of playing time in 2016, even if outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said that he would like to see less of a rotation than they employed last season.
In fact, according to former Steelers Depot writer Jon Ledyard over at Steel City Insider, Chickillo credits Porter quite a bit for not only his improvement, but for helping him rediscover how ‘fun’ the game can be, after being reintroduced to the position he believes he should have been playing all along.
“He’s made football fun for me again form where I was at in college”, he told Ledyard recently at training camp. “Every day you’re learning from a guy who did it at a really high level, has played in Pro Bowls, has played in Super Bowls and knows what it takes to be the best”.
Brought in to Miami and asked to put on weight to play the 3-4 defensive end position, Chickillo lost some of his natural gifts in college, but he has dropped over 30 pounds from his college playing weight, and is now at around 250 pounds.
He even told Ledyard that he didn’t play the position he wanted to in college, but just did what the coaches asked of him, adding, “I was really fortunate to come [to Pittsburgh] and have the coaches that I do, coaches that believe in me and what I can do”.
Chief among them is Porter, who said that Chickillo had “made a whole lot of headway transforming from a D-lineman to a true outside linebacker”.
The linebacker credits Porter for helping him have “a plan and using my hands”. “Coach Porter helps me a lot at seeing what kind of guy you have in front of you and figuring out different ways you can beat that guy”. Those lessons have translated in both one-on-one and scrimmage drills, with the next step being the preseason.
If he continues to shine over the course of the next month, then he should certainly be fighting for playing time. Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, and it’s one thing to win in practice versus in an in-game situation where the scoreboard matters.