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Steelers rookie OLB Anthony Chickillo coming into his own in the Steel City

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The Pittsburgh Steelers took a hybrid DE/OLB in the 6th round from Miami named Anthony Chickillo. After a whirlwind preseason, the rookie got his first defensive snaps of his NFL career in Week 10. Mark that down as the beginning for the rookie.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There weren't many people who believed the Pittsburgh Steelers 6th round draft pick Anthony Chickillo would amount to much, let alone make the team. It doesn't matter much to Chickillo, he has been told he can't do it for a long time, but the rookie not only made the team, but persevered through being cut and on the practice squad only to see his first defensive snaps of his NFL career in Week 10 against the Cleveland Browns. Consider that to be just the beginning for Chickillo.

What is most noticeable about Chickillo is his smaller frame. Chickillo has lost 40-pounds since the start of training camp, and is learning an entirely new position with the Steelers. Transitioning from a defensive end at Miami to a 3-4 outside linebacker isn't as easy as one may think.

"I'm learning a whole bunch every week, and I want to keep improving," Chickillo told Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I didn't play special teams in college and I didn't play this position in college, so it's important to take advantage of my opportunities.

"My main thing is to keep learning from (linebacker) coach (Joey) Porter. It helps to soak in all that knowledge from the older guys, too. Right now, I'm nowhere near where I want to be or where I'm gonna be."

Where Chickillo is going to be is anyone's guess at this point, but the rookie has shown enough improvement where he was the backup to Jarvis Jones in the team's last game, when James Harrison was inactive with a knee injury.

"Everything happened so fast because the speed was different," Chickillo said. "I hadn't played on defense since that last preseason game, so I was trying to get into the groove.

"It was something I dreamt about as a kid. Everyone used to tell me it was too big of a dream to play in the NFL and that the odds are against you."

The learning curve is different for every player who walks into the team's South Side facility, and Chickillo is leaning on one of the best outside linebackers to ever wear a black and gold jersey for advice and guidance. That player would be none other than James Harrison.

"I've watched James Harrison since I was a kid," he said. "He's a guy everyone knew before they came into this locker room. I remember watching him when I was in elementary school. I'm always listening whenever he shares his knowledge of the game with me. I just want to learn from him."

So, what does the man teammates call "Deebo" think of the rookie linebacker? "(Chickillo) is a doing a good job and he deserved to get some real game time." Harrison said. "We'll see where it goes when he gets more time and experience."

It was good to see another member of the Steelers 2015 draft class contribute to the team, but what the Steelers have given Chickillo goes far beyond playing time.

"At Miami, they took away some of my quickness," Chickillo said. "The only thing they cared about was me gaining weight. I feel like the Steelers gave me back something I lost. I'm having fun playing football again."