Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: OLB Anthony Chickillo
Stock Value: Up
While the Steelers did draft an outside linebacker in the sixth round with Sutton Smith out of the MAC conference, I think it’s fair to say that the rookie is not going to pose a significant threat to veteran Anthony Chickillo this season.
Chickillo, going into his fifth season, has been the team’s top reserve outside linebacker for more or less the past couple of seasons, and he has started several games over the course of his career. Outside of about a dozen snaps by Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, he is the only one who ate into the starters’ snaps at the position last season.
The Steelers signed him to a new two-year contract earlier this offseason, but it’s a backloaded deal that features a much bigger cap hit for 2020 than for 2019. Because of this, some are looking at his contract as a one-year deal with a costly year-two club option.
One can’t help but wonder how much of his future is tied to that of Bud Dupree, who is entering his fifth-year option season. It’s hard to imagine that the Steelers have definite plans for his future with the team beyond 2019.
They continue to speak about him in the same terms that they use for first- and second-year players, talking about how they believe he will be a good player for them in the future but that there are some things in his game that need to be worked out. This is pretty much was defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of him during the draft.
If Dupree is gone in 2020, that gives Chickillo much better odds of seeing the second year of that contract. By then he might have more competition from the likes of Adeniyi and Smith, and perhaps even Keion Adams if he’s still around by then. But at least as far as the 2019 season is concerns, his roster spot, and his role, seems to be as safe as it can be.