Though it was not the plan going into the season, Pittsburgh Steelers third-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo found himself in the starting lineup on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns in their opening game of the year, with Bud Dupree ruled out for the game.
Officially, the former sixth-round draft pick was credited with six tackles to go along with two tackles on the defensive side of the ball. On special teams, he also recovered the football in the end zone for a touchdown on the Browns’ first punt of the game, which was blocked by Tyler Matakevich.
Chickillo sat down earlier this week with Missi Matthews on the team’s website and one of the things that he was asked to discuss was his performance and how he would evaluate it.
“I made some plays”, he assessed of his performance on Sunday. “I missed some tackles that I would like to make, but you know, the first week, [there’s] a lot of anxiousness the first week. Definitely a good start, but there’s got to be improvement”.
It’s worth noting that according to Pro Football Focus, Chickillo was the only 3-4 outside linebacker who received a significant amount of playing time a year ago whom they deemed did not miss a single tackle throughout the year. The site credited him and T.J. Watt each with two missed tackles, the only players at their position during the opening week to miss more than one.
While he may have had his issues in coverage—where both of his missed tackles occurred, he had a solid day overall, recording two stops in the run game and four total pressures as a pass rusher. In addition to the two sacks, he also recorded two hurries.
It is all part of the continued improvements that he has made from year to year, and that includes a physical transformation from a hand-in-the-dirt interior defensive lineman playing at 285 pounds during his senior year in college to a far slimmer edge defender three years later.
“I feel like I’ve taken a step. There are still things I want to get better at, improving, but I feel like I’m taking the right steps forward, just learning from Coach Porter and Coach Butz, just taking the coaching and putting in the time”, he said of his progress this year.
While he may have held up in his first action of the season, however, he understands that it figures to be a temporary assignment, as Dupree is still going to be given the opportunity to be ‘the guy’ at left outside linebacker when he gets back on the field, presumably on Sunday.
“I only can control what I can control”, he told Matthews of his role and playing time going forward. “You’ve just always got to stay prepared, stay ready. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do it, and when I’m called, I’ll be ready”.