Player: Anthony Chickillo
Position: Outside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $1,907,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
Anthony Chickillo played out of position in college. He had the football bloodline. He had to drop the weight to show his agility. The sixth-round pick was going to overcome all the obstacles to show that he was capable of being a very good outside linebacker in the NFL.
The only problem with that story is that it’s one that never happened. That’s not to diminish Chickillo’s career, because frankly, he’s already done more than what most players accomplish from his draft positions. He is a fixture on special teams and a rotational presence at his position.
But if he ever ends up in the starting lineup again, it will be because the Steelers are in a bad way, because he simply is not a starter by talent and ability, or at least hasn’t been to this point, and thus likely never will be.
He posted 24 tackles and a sack and a half in his fourth season, playing in 16 games but starting none. His career-high three sacks came in 2017 in the two starts that he made through the first three weeks of the season. He has seven sacks in total in 54 games with nine starts.
Unfortunately, Chickillo has shown us who he is as a player, and that includes athleticism in training camp that doesn’t translate to the field in terms of ankle bend and power. His pass rush is the weakest part of his game, yet his hustle is the strongest.
Free Agency Outlook:
This is an interesting discussion to have because the reality is that the Steelers really don’t have any proven commodities at the outside linebacker position, either as starters or as depth, outside of T.J. Watt.
The reality is that whatever decision that they make about Bud Dupree—namely if they make such a decision that involves him not being on the team—could shape whether or not Chickillo is re-signed beyond his first four seasons in Pittsburgh.
Behind Watt, Dupree, and Chickillo are…kind of nobody. There is 2018 undrafted free agent Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who spent most of the season on injured reserve, was active for one game, and played a handful of snaps. Then there is Keion Adams, a 2017 seventh-round pick who was on injured reserve as a rookie and on the practice squad in 2018.
Because they don’t really know what they have in the pipeline, and because they know he’s a player who knows his assignment—and because, oh yeah, he’s a core special teams player—it’s more likely than not that you see Chickillo back in Pittsburgh in 2019, though I would be surprised if it was for much more than a qualifying contract for one year.