According to agent Drew Rosenhaus and ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the New Orleans Saints have signed former Pittsburgh Steelers backup outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo to a one-year contract.
Chickillo had been with the Steelers for the past five seasons, having been drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2015 draft (#212 overall).
Special Teams Anthony Chickillo’s Forte
Chickillo played in 65 games over the course of his five years with the Steelers, but made fewer than ten starts, and most of his production came on special teams. On defense his career stats include 97 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumbles recovered.
Chickillo was released by the Steelers two months ago in a move designed to save salary cap space. But off-the-field issues may have played a role in the decision.
In October of last year, Chickillo was arrested on misdemeanor assault and mischief charges after a ‘domestic situation’ involving his girlfriend. Chickillo and his girlfriend were also cited for harassment.
The charges were withdrawn less than two weeks later, at which point Chickillo was permitted to return to the Steelers’ active roster. He was subsequently cleared by the NFL “because of insufficient evidence” and did not face any punishment by the league.
Chickillo went on to apologize for being a distraction to the team, saying, “I just want to acknowledge that the situation has been a distraction for my teammates, the organization and the fans and I apologize for that.”
Alex Highsmith Takes Anthony Chickillo’s Spot on Pittsburgh’s Roster
Following Chickillo’s release the Steelers drafted Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Highsmith is expected to take Chickillo’s spot on the team, serving as a backup outside linebacker and playing on special teams while the Steelers try to discern whether Highsmith has starter-potential–and whether he is a potential replacement for Bud Dupree, should Dupree leave in free agency after the 2020 season.
Highsmith began his career with the Charlotte 49ers as a walk-on, but went on to set a Charlotte record by recording 20 career sacks, including 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2019. He also became the first University of North Carolina-Charlotte player to be named an AP All-American (third team in 2019).
Charlotte head coach Will Healy was ebullient after Highsmith was drafted by the Steelers, telling Teresa Varley of Steelers.com that he is “ridiculously proud.”
“He’s a guy I have grown really close to over the last year. I was fortunate enough to inherit him and coach him. It couldn’t happen to a better person,” Healy said, before gushing about Highsmith’s motor, energy and will to succeed.
“He is relentless,” Healy added. “When you go back and look at it, I bet he played more snaps than any defensive end in college football last year. He would play 70-75 snaps rushing the passer [and] gave you everything he had for every snap. There is a will to win and be successful he has that I haven’t seen in many others. He gave us everything he had.”