On Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers second-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo made his first career start after he recorded the first sack and forced fumble of his career the week before. The coaching staff wanted to see what he could do with a bigger role—and, quite honestly, this is what a lot of fans wanted to see.
Given those two notes above, it would make sense if we were to take a look at some of the plays that Chickillo was involved in during his playing time. It should be noted that while he technically did start, Arthur Moats still saw more time in the game than did Chickillo, even if it still represented a career-high in terms of snaps played in a game.
While he wasn’t involved in a lot of plays—I believe he registered three tackles in total, and no formal quarterback pressures—what can be said about him while he is in the game is that he is consistently active and working toward making a play, even if it doesn’t happen often.
Early in the game, with the Dolphins closing in on a score at the end of their opening drive, Miami gave Chickillo a free rush from the left outside linebacker position. He knew this would be to suck him out of the play, so instead of coming full-on into the pocket, he tried to play the passing lane in order to disrupt the throw. Unfortunately, the throw went much more laterally than he was able to defend, but he did do a nice job of trying to get back into the play after the throw was made.
That play only gave the Dolphins a third and six to contend with, however, and on third down they tried to hit the running back in the flat in the hopes that the perimeter defense would provide a lane for a first down. But Chickillo dropped into coverage on the play, and would have been there to make the stop even if the back had not dropped the ball.
Later on in the first quarter, the linebacker was part of a group of players collapsing the pocket on third down that forced the Dolphins into a bad throw that was too low for the receiver to bring in, resulting in an incompletion.
There were, frankly, not really any highlights from Chickillo’s performance throughout the game. The majority of his positive moments were simply products of staying with a play. That is why he makes a good backside defender, as he did early in the third quarter against the run on one of the few plays the defense was able to hit the Dolphins for a loss.
It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out this week against New England. I’m not sure if the plan is to keep Chickillo in the starting lineup or not, but either way, he should probably still see a greater percentage of the snaps than he did through the first five weeks.