Carter will have to make a splash this preseason to earn any time on special teams, let alone on defense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Outside linebacker Chris Carter had a tremendous opportunity to become an indispensable part of Pittsburgh’s defense when James Harrison was unable to suit up for the Steelers during the first three games of the 2012 regular season.
With “Deebo’s” injuries continuing to pile up, the franchise needed see somebody like Carter begin to emerge as an adequate replacement at the weakside-outside linebacker position. Unfortunately for the second-year linebacker, he failed enormously when he was pressed into duty for Harrison early during the 2012 campaign.
Not only did Carter fail to record a single sack during those first three games, he only tallied a total of eight tackles during his entire second professional season before he ended the year on injured reserve.
Carter’s lack of production in turn had a large impact on Pittsburgh’s strategy in this past April’s draft. While Carter’s inability to make a splash was not the sole reason why the Steelers drafted Jarvis Jones with the 17th overall pick, the former Fresno State Bulldog’s lack of development during his first two years definitely had to factor into Colbert & Co.’s decision making.
With Jones on the roster, competing for backup reps will be troublesome enough for Carter to deal with over the coming weeks. In addition to Jones though, Carter will also have to stave off the hungry Adrian Robinson and the incredibly desperate Stevenson Sylvester to boot.
Robinson, a 2012 UDFA, showed enough promise during last year’s training camp and preseason as a pass-rusher to earn a spot on the 53-man roster as a rookie. Although the former defensive end was relegated to the bench and special teams, the Steelers’ brass obviously wanted to keep him around for developmental purposes. While he is still raw and learning a new position in Dick LeBeau’s complex defense, Robinson illustrated an ability to collapse the pocket during the 2012 preseason which could make him an even more formidable competitor for Carter to deal with.
Despite the fact that Sylvester lacks experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Steelers’ defensive scheme, the soon-to-be fourth year linebacker is entering a “make-or-break” training camp of his own. The Pittsburgh’s fifth round pick from 2010 could be a training camp wild-card if he can show some promise at his new position.
While I fully expect Carter to win one of the backup jobs this fall, he cannot sleep on his competition. If Carter falls behind Jones, Robinson, and even Sylvester on the depth chart at outside linebacker to number six overall at the position, then his days could be numbered with the franchise if Pittsburgh elects to carry an extra player at wide receiver, running back, along their offensive line, or even a kick/punt return specialist.
As it stands, Carter has two seasons (2013-2014) remaining on his rookie contract. So regardless of whether or not he makes the 53-man roster again this year, time is running out for Carter to give the coaching staff confidence that he can even provide some reliable depth at outside linebacker.
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