You knew it was coming. Hearing the word "linebacker" during a Steelers draft is a sure thing.
This year's selection is Christopher Carter from Fresno State.
He'll follow in the footsteps of Jason Worilds, Thaddeus Gibson, LaMarr Woodley, Bruce Davis, and Alonzo Jackson as drafted defensive ends the team will attempt to convert to stand-up pass rushers in the Steelers 3-4 scheme.
Pittsburgh LB Coach Keith Butler admits the conversion process takes "a couple of years," and admitted Gibson's late arrival a year ago (he missed offseason workouts due to Ohio State's calendar year running longer than most schools) led to him being "way behind" when training camp began. Gibson eventually was released in-season in a numbers game to keep DE Aaron Smith on the active roster, in hopes Aaron would return later in the season. And with this year's lockout, the new arrival Carter will have a similar difficult learning curve awaiting him.
If the process runs its' course, though, the Steelers will ideally have another depth pass rusher behind Harrison, Woodley, and Worilds as well as a fast special teams player (Butler says the team timed him at a 4.66 40-yd dash). Getting into the backfield was Carter's specialty with the Bulldogs, as he racked up 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss his senior season. All told Carter had 19.5 sacks and 38 TFLs in 49 games played (38 starts) and was named the team's MVP in 2010 as Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and 1st-team All-WAC.
At only 6'1 inches tall, Carter is a bit shorter than a prototype 3-4 OLB. However, he acquitted himself well during The East-West Shrine all-star game as a standup player and drew attention from NFL scouts. Carter said he has been working this offseason with NFL vet Willie McGinest at Athletes Performance Institute in LA to learn the trade. In addition, Carter seems more than willing to put on the Black & Gold and study under James Harrison, saying "It's an honor to be in the same locker room as that guy. In college all I used to do was watch NFL Network and watch [Harrison] play, and man, 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."