Chickillo also got the start in the opener when Bud Dupree was ruled out with a shoulder injury while Harrison played four snaps, which seemed to run counter to a stated plan to have Harrison available as a “relief pitcher” behind the starting outside linebackers.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked to explain those decisions when he spoke to the media on Tuesday and pointed to the way Chickillo played in Week One as well as knowing what Harrison can do.
“Bud missed some time in Week One, and Chickillo was able to start. Chickillo produced two sacks,” Tomlin said. “You respect those contributions. T.J. got hurt in Week Two, and we wanted to leave the hot hand in there, Chickillo being that hot hand. We appreciate James. We know what James is capable of. James will ready himself, and there will be a time in the season when we’ll call on his services, and he’ll deliver and deliver in a big way. Much like he did in the latter part of 2016. In the meanwhile, we’re going to continue to roll people and play, and play guys as we see fit and not do a real good job of maybe describing our mind-set, or outlining our intentions, because part of it is gamesmanship and part of it is it will define itself as we move forward.”
The Steelers would have presumably looked to Harrison more if Chickillo didn’t play up to expectations, but he did and the Steelers now find themselves with the not all that problematic problem of having multiple backups they can turn to if there’s a need over the course of the season.
That need may exist against the Bears this weekend as Watt is dealing with a groin injury. Tomlin said Watt could potentially play, although more clarity should come once the team resumes practicing on Wednesday.