Next man up. That’s the standard. The creed. Heck, I bet it’ll be plastered on a blimp and fly over Heinz Field each week.
With the loss of Bud Dupree, that next man is Anthony Chickillo.
At today’s press conference, Mike Tomlin made it clear Chickillo will be involved in the defense.
“We’re going to play all four guys fluidly at the two spots,” he told reporters. “We hadn’t met yet and gotten into a division of labor in terms of who is going to play when and how much. We got a great deal of confidence and ability of all the four guys who are candidates at the position.”
Fluid is an apt word to describe the group. James Harrison is probably the only one locked in to a side, his ROLB spot, though as we pointed out this morning, he is someone who could get kicked inside. Arthur Moats has extensive time at both spots while Jarvis Jones has shifted around a little more often over the past year. Chickillo has gotten even time at the left and right spots in his two years in the league.
It’s likely the starting pair is Moats on the left, Jones on the right. Harrison and Chickillo will rotate in throughout.
Chickillo saw a role on defense in one game his rookie season, Week Ten against the Cleveland Browns, while Harrison was sidelined. He played 20 snaps compared to Dupree’s 38, Moats’ 33, and Jones’ 46. So by far the fewest, though Chickillo has surely taken strides since that time and now, the team knows it is dealing with more than just a one-week absence of their players. Dupree won’t be back until Week 9 at the earliest.
The second year linebacker enjoyed an excellent camp. Preseason performances were a bit mixed and weren’t helped by ankle and foot injuries. Now, he’ll be counted on to provide an edge rush that was inconsistent and generally inefficient a year ago.
If Chickillo logs most of his snaps as the LOLB, he’ll most often be pitted against right tackle Morgan Moses. Moses has had a rocky career so far but is an imposing player at 6’6, 335 with nearly 35 inch arms. Sound run defense is just as critical as getting after the quarterback so Chickillo will have to match the physicality and intensity Washington, and regular season action in general, will bring.