By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — After bolstering their secondary with cornerback picks in the third and fourth rounds, the Pittsburgh Steelers took their customary outside linebacker in Chris Carter during the fifth round of the NFL Draft Saturday.
Carter, a 6-foot-1, 248-pound defensive end at Fresno State, believed that he can make it as an outside linebacker because he is similar in stature to Steelers Pro-Bowler James Harrison.
“I respect both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, but I watched a lot of Harrison (in) college,” Carter said. “(It’s) going to be an honor to be in the same locker room with that guy. … I watched him all the time.
“All I used to do was sit at home and watch the NFL Network to watch this guy. He plays with passion. To be a player of that caliber is something I dream about, and I definitely plan on making that dream come true.”
At first blush, Carter certainly appears to be a long shot to even make the Steelers, let alone excel. At most, he’s a project who needs a lot of work, despite a tremendous upside and potential.
“He’s a hard fit….
(because) most people see him as a 4-3 defensive end,” Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said.
“We think he can stand up and be as effective in a two-point stance. We’ll see when we get him to training camp.
“(But) he has a good motor and a lot of speed off the edge. He’s been mainly a three-point stance guy most of his career. … Teams have had problems dealing with him. His biggest asset is as a speed rusher off the edge. He did stand up a little, (but) that’s a little awkward for him right now.”
Carter was Fresno State’s most valuable defensive lineman, and he started 38 of 49 career games for the Bulldogs. He tallied 19.5 career sacks as a defensive end and led the WAC in that category last fall with 0.85 per game.
“I’ve been working with Willie McGinest and a few other coaches the past few months, and I’m just excited to get this opportunity with the Steelers,” Carter said. “(So), I’m very happy. My uncle is a die-hard Steelers fan, so I know he’s going to be real happy about this as well.
“He’s (in California), but he’s just a Steelers fan. I don’t know why. I never asked him about it, but when we go to his house he has a Steelers room.”
McGinest was the linebackers coach at Athlete Performance Institute where Carter trained after this past season.
“He’s worked hard, but it usually (takes) a couple years,” Butler said when asked about the transition for Carter. “The biggest thing for these guys … like Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley, who were defensive ends, is that they usually had to line up over an offensive tackle.
“They don’t have to make formation adjustments. This will be the biggest obstacle that he will have to overcome in terms of recognizing formations and exactly where we want him to line up. I spend 80 percent of my time talking about alignment with all the linebackers, because if you get that right it makes your job a lot easier.”
Carter also could help the Steelers on special teams.