Steelers’ rookie Chickillo wants to continue family tradition

Published 1:48 am Thursday, August 6, 2015

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Anthony Chickillo is looking to become the third member of his family to play in the NFL.

Chickillo is well aware of his family lineage as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He feels it’s time to carve his own path in professional football.

“It’s cool to say that I’m doing what my dad did and what my grandfather did,” Chickillo said. “It’s a cool story, but I’m just trying to get better every day.”

Grandfather Nick Chickillo played the 1953 NFL season with the Chicago Cardinals.

Coincidentally, Nick Chickillo, who passed away in 2000, spent a short time with the Steelers during training camp in the mid-1950s before his career ended.

Tampa Bay drafted Anthony’s father, Tony Chickillo, in the fifth-round in 1983 and he spent two seasons playing defensive line for the San Diego Chargers and a year with the New York Jets.

“You don’t really think about what they did,” the youngest Chickillo said. “I’m just trying to create my own memories and my own legacy.”

Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward can relate as the son of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, an NFL running back who spent an 11-year career playing for five different teams.

“I think you understand what this game brings and what opportunities go along with it, but at the same time, you set your own pressure,” Heyward said. “You never want to be in anybody else’s shadow.”

Chickillo, a former Miami (Florida) standout, is one of the Steelers’ two sixth-round picks. He’s hoping to make the move from defensive end to outside linebacker.

“I’m just trying to become the best player I can be,” Chickillo said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I’m just going to work really hard to do it.”

It showed during the offseason when Chickillo, at the behest of his coaches, dropped about 30 pounds, shedding the defensive lineman image for a lighter, quicker, 253-pound build designed to utilize his speed.

“He’s a pretty disciplined kid, losing the weight and getting down,” Heyward said. “It’s tough, especially coming from minicamp because there’s not that much time. He played my position last year and now he’s playing outside. You can tell he really wants to be part of this team.”

Chickillo hasn’t played this light since his freshman year of college, but he said he feels better, faster and quicker. He believes it will give him a chance to showcase his pass-rushing ability, something he didn’t get to do in Miami.

“Going into the draft process, a lot of teams didn’t think I was athletic because of the way I was used in Miami, so I kind of have that chip on my shoulder,” Chickillo said. “I want to go prove everybody wrong.”

He’s off to a good start. Chickillo’s relentless work ethic was on full display during training camp practices as he used his speed and slender 6-foot-3 frame to regularly rush past offensive tackles.

Chickillo is described as a self-starter, a high-energy player with a live motor, which is good for the Steelers, who desire to reach the quarterback more frequently after totaling just 33 sacks in 2014, 26th in the league.

“I just try to go hard,” Chickillo said. “That’s the only way you can play.”

It’s the only way Chickillo knows. And it may just be enough to help him become the third member of his family to play in the NFL.

“He’s a good kid and he has good lineage behind him,” Heyward said. “I just love the way he works, he’s a hard worker, and I’m hoping that translates into a great player on the field.”

NOTES: Second-round pick CB Senquez Golson said he took an MRI a week ago on his shoulder, injured during the team’s minicamp. Options are season-ending surgery or rehabilitation and a return. … S Robert Golden suffered what coach Mike Tomlin called ‘a significant injury’ to his leg during the team’s two-minute drill.


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