It has been an interesting rookie season for Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth round draft pick Anthony Chickillo. After a productive offseason where he made a transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, Chickillo initially made the final roster, but would be released and signed to the practice squad before the official start of the regular season.
As fate would have it, linebacker James Harrison would suffer an injury to his thumb in the Steelers’ week three victory over the St. Louis Rams. Harrison is listed as probable for Pittsburgh’s first divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night, but there is always the possibility that issues can occur before the start of the game. If so, Chickillo could get his first opportunity to play in a regular season game early in his career.
If the Steelers felt that Harrison’s thumb injury was not something that could develop into a serious matter, they would not have made the move to drop defensive end Cashuad Lyons from their 53 man roster to promote the rookie. Lyons should have never been acquired by the Steelers to begin with, seeing as they spent so much time in developing Chickillo to make a position change during the preseason. Chickillo logged 138 snaps over the course of five games, but only recorded five tackles.
If Chickillo does not find himself getting time in the linebacker rotation he could take the field on special teams. With Matt Spaeth ruled out due to a hand injury his spot on kickoff and punt returns must be filled. No matter how he is contributing it is better to have him on the active roster and off the practice squad where another team could attempt to claim him.
This is all assuming that Chickillo is not just placed on the inactive list before the start of the game Thursday night. It would be wise for the Steelers to keep him active in the event that Harrison’s thumb gives him trouble during the game. Even though the Steelers have Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree that could be plugged in at any time, the rotation pattern they have utilized has been successful for them over the course of three games.
The fact that Chickillo has a chance to be on the field on Thursday is a step in the right direction for the future of this team. He is one of four rookies on the final roster this year – something that rarely happens when it comes to the Steelers. Bud Dupree has made solid contributions on defense, Jesse James most likely play against Baltimore, and L.T. Walton is waiting in the wings as solid depth at the defensive end position.
Even though the Baltimore Ravens are 0-3 this season, a first in franchise history, this game will be no different from the defensive slugfest that Steelers’ Nation has grown accustom to over the years. All it could take for Chickillo would be one impressive outing to thrust his career into what could be a very successful one in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers must groom a linebacker to eventually take Harrison’s roster spot when it comes time for him to hang up the cleats for good. While they could always draft another high round outside linebacker, it would be a sign of their willingness to commit to their philosophy of finding star talent in the later rounds of the draft as they have done in the past.
The way Chickillo received his roster spot is one similar to James Harrison’s. Harrison was promoted to the starting roster after starting linebacker Clark Haggans was injured during the offseason. Even though Harrison’s injury is not as drastic as Haggans’ was, it gives the rookie the opportunity to prove his worth if is number is called.
Anthony Chickillo displayed raw, exciting talent as a linebacker for the Steelers during the preseason. Over time he could eventually be molded into an extremely gifted athlete. If we see him take the field on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens it very well could be the start of a promising career for another great Pittsburgh Steelers defensive player.
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