The Broncos killed two birds with one stone in preparation for Sunday's game against the Steelers. Denver, in need of reinforcements at outside linebacker, signed six-year veteran Anthony Chickillo off of the Saints' practice squad, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Before signing with the Saints this past March, Chickillo spent five seasons with the Steelers, the Broncos' Week 2 opponent. A sixth round pick in the 2015 draft, Chickillo made nine starts in 65 games with the Steelers. He recorded 97 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles while also serving as a significant special teams player.
Chickillo has in-depth knowledge of the Steelers' defense, a unit that looked as good as advertised during Pittsburgh's season-opening win over the Giants. While Pittsburgh's defense wasn't great on third down, they did a stellar job against Giants running back Saquon Barkley, holding him to a mere six yards on 15 carries. The Steelers' defense, led by T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward, also harassed quarterback Daniel Jones, sacking him three times and intercepting him twice.
Speaking of Watt and Dupree, Chickillo should have in depth knowledge of both players after playing behind them during his time in Pittsburgh. Chickillo also has knowledge of Pittsburgh's offensive personnel after practicing against them for the past several years. The Steelers' offense, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold after missing most of the 2019 season, enjoyed a solid season debut against the Giants. Roethlisberger, after a slow start, threw three touchdown passes that included two touchdown strikes to JuJu Smith-Schuster. James Washington also caught a touchdown pass, while running back Benny Snell, playing in relief of injured running back James Conner, rushed for a career-high 113 yards on 19 carries.
Denver is still in search for its first win after falling just short against the visiting Titans in Week 1, 16-14. After Melvin Gordon's 1-yard touchdown gave the Broncos the lead with 9:08 remaining, Denver's defense allowed a 12-play, 83-yard drive that set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winning field goal.
Drew Lock, making just his sixth career start, went 22-of-33 for 216 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target Monday was fellow 2019 draft classmate Noah Fant, who caught five passes for 81 yards and a score. Rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy had a solid debut, catching four of eight targets for 56 yards. Gordon, a former Pro Bowler who signed a two-year deal with the Broncos this offseason, rushed for 78 yards on 15 carries.
While they didn't give up many points, Denver's defense wasn't the same without pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller. The Broncos failed to sack quarterback Ryan Tannehill, while running back Derrick Henry rushed for 116 yards on 31 carries. Alexander Johnson paced Denver with 12 tackles, while cornerback Bryce Callahan and linebacker Josey Jewell each recorded eight tackles. Denver will need more in this game from defensive end Bradley Chubb, who was a virtual no-show against the Titans.
Lock and his offensive teammates will look to mimic the success the Giants had against the Steelers on third down, as New York was able to go 8-of-15 on third down. If Lock can find a groove with Fant, Courtland Sutton and Jeudy while getting enough support from Gordon in the ground game, Denver could make things interesting Sunday against the favored Steelers. The Broncos' defense will also have to come up with some turnovers, which is something they were able to do the last time they faced Big Ben and the Steelers back in 2018.