If nothing else, history suggests keeping an eye on Steelers backup outside linebacker Chris Carter this summer.
After all, Carter is entering his fourth NFL season, and he wouldn’t be the first Steelers outside linebacker to find his way after spending several years as an understudy. For instance, Jason Worilds’ breakout 2013 campaign (63 tackles, eight sacks) came in his fourth NFL season. Similarly, James Harrison and Clark Haggans both served multiyear stints as backups before becoming productive starters.
In a story in Saturday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Carter indicated he had been working on his pass coverage, as well as his arsenal of pass rush skills. And it’s his pass rushing that figures to determine where his NFL career goes from here. If Carter can generate some edge pressure this season, he could draw interest as an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Still, Carter’s production has been lacking to this point.
The 2011 fifth-round pick has yet to be credited with a sack, and he has missed time with hamstring and abdominal injuries. Overall, he has played 231 snaps in regular season play, per Pro Football Focus data. With Worilds and Jarvis Jones the expected starters at outside linebacker, Carter again figures to be a backup.
Carter told the Post-Gazette that his speed off the edge is “an element of my game that separates myself from a lot of people.” Now, more than ever, is the time to show that as he enters what could be a now-or-never season.