Player: Anthony Chickillo
Position: Outside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $525,000
2016 Season Breakdown:
The Steelers really seem to like Anthony Chickillo, but it’s really not clear what his ceiling is. While they like his discipline, I don’t think it’s apparent that he can develop into a quality full-time starter. But there was a large stretch of the 2016 season in which they believed his was their best option, leading to him starting for several games.
Of course, they was a byproduct of Bud Dupree starting the season on injured reserve, but he did pass Arthur Moats on the depth chart, who opened the past two seasons as the Steelers’ starting left outside linebacker, a job that he has now lost twice—first to Dupree, then to Chickillo.
As a defensive end in college, it wasn’t really known what sort of athleticism a team could get out of him, but the Steelers were convinced by his drill work that he could drop weight and play as an outside linebacker in their system, and it took a year or so to get him into the body that fits what they want him to do.
He did undeniably have a productive season relative to the sort of role he is meant to have. In 15 games with seven starters—always working in a rotation—he recorded 29 tackles with two and a half sacks, forcing fumbles on two of them.
Chickillo has an impressive motor that has been a great asset to him, and he has become a great asset to the Steelers’ special teams unit, where he has become a fixture and a leader in his second season. While that will—or should—be his primary role going forward, the team is comfortable in knowing that they can put him in any role and at least trust him to be where he should be and give consistent effort.
Free Agency Outlook:
Anthony Chickillo was a sixth-round draft pick of the Steelers just two years ago, so you might find yourself wondering why it is that he was already a free agent after just two seasons. You might have forgotten in that case that, though he made the initial 53-man roster as a rookie, he was released the following day and re-signed to the practice squad, where he spent the first three games of the season being before called up.
That process voided his rookie contract, but he signed a two-year deal after he was called up from the practice squad. After two years, he hit exclusive-rights free agency, and the Steelers took quick action to keep him on the roster.
In my estimation, Chickillo presents quality depth at the outside linebacker position with the capability of being a spot starter who will play the run well but provide inconsistent pressure. It will be interesting to see how much he can improve though from year two to year three.