Steelers OLB Chris Carter Still The Fourth Wheel

Confirmation bias is a dangerous logical fallacy. We hold a specific belief, and then interpret all new data through the lens of that belief, selectively retaining the information that seems to lend credence to our previously established belief.

This happened recently in the 2014 NFL Draft, during which seemingly the entire football world, including players, convinced themselves that the Pittsburgh Steelers were desperate to draft a cornerback or a wide receiver in the first round, such was their concern at those positions.

That turned out not to be the case. The team evidently viewed inside linebacker and defensive line as greater areas of weakness, and they used their first two draft picks with a mind toward insulating the interior front seven.

Cornerback and wide receiver are not the only positions that the Steelers are evidently more comfortable with than fans would care to admit, however, as the coaches seem perfectly fine with what they have in terms of depth at outside linebacker.

Just last season, they had at their disposal three high-level prospects in LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds, and Jarvis Jones, all of whom received significant playing time. Chris Carter is and has been the fourth wheel since his rookie season in 2011.

Then, he was behind Worilds, who waited patiently behind Woodley and James Harrison. When the team released Harrison, they drafted Jones.

Now that they’ve released Woodley as well, the team signed Arthur Moats in free agency to serve as the primary backup. So while the rest of the depth chart is ascending, Carter has remained stagnant.

If the Steelers have been content for three seasons now with Carter as their fourth outside linebacker, why would that suddenly change now?

And if, say, he gets beaten out by Vic So’oto or Howard Jones, that only suggests that the team is even more comfortable with their depth chart than they were when they felt Carter was the fourth-best option.

When making predictions, it’s important to locate and isolate your own biases while examining the situation. Many fans are less than enthusiastic about Carter and wouldn’t put him on their own roster, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers wouldn’t have him on theirs.

In the meantime, the fourth-year outside linebacker is getting extensive work with the second-team defense during OTAs—especially so with Worilds sitting the practices out with a tweaked hamstring—where he’ll in all likelihood remain into the season.

For whatever it’s worth, Dale Lolley has noted that Carter “showed a nice burst off the edge” during OTAs. Speed has always been his asset since he was drafted, even if it has yet to notch him a sack during the regular season in 118 pass rushing snaps.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    When Worilds returns Carter will be delegated back to 3rd Team, that’s not saying much. In all seriousness, I’m sure he has a full grasp of the Defense, but 3rd Team defense could be manned by someone like Howard Jones or Zumwalt

  • ApexSteel

    Best case scenario is that we resign Harrison, Howard Jones eventually develops, and this bum get cut. He let Steverson Sylvester to play over him. There’s just no coming back from that.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m not sure I would interpret that information the same way. It is usually true that development LB’s on the Steelers tend to very suddenly go from not playing to starting and usually do much better than expected.

    I think they have been very happy with Carter on special teams and he has been a development player at LB. What I don’t think is a given however is that they are happy with him and his development. You are always happy when someone tries hard and learns what you teach them but you are never happy unless there is significant improvement on a regular basis until they graduate.

    Being happy with him while he was developing doesn’t in any way mean that are going to even keep him on the team if he hasn’t taken the next step. They were happy last year with his school work but he needs to graduate this year to keep his job and the fact that he was a willing student last year doesn’t buy him anything.

    He has to be able to play and we haven’t seen it yet as fans. I don’t think the team will be happy or satisfied if he isn’t significantly better than he has ever been before.

  • dgh57

    Carter is the Curtis Brown of the LB group and should only see the field on Special Teams like C. Brown did. Hopefully someone will come through for us to make it happen!

  • Biggie

    Carter has to take a big step this year in TC to me. He should be starting to really become a force and not just on ST. Yes you can win a spot playing well on ST but if they is all you can contribute to and you are not developing, then it’s time for the next guy up who has potential and can play ST. Carter should a few steps ahead of the likes of Zumwalt, So’oto and H. Jones. If not then time to see which has the best potential.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The problem I have with Carter is simple to me. Our OLB’s are our splash team and Carter has yet to even put a ripple in the water. He has some starting exp. for us and knows the defense which is a asset but he needs to show some splash and hopefully this year it comes together a little bit better.

  • Matt Manzo

    Yep! I would rather let the rookies have his spot. I don’t think he’s done anything a rookie can’t do.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Unless he gets outperformed, the fact of the matter is that he’s still on his rookie contract. It wouldn’t make any sense to cut him if he’s still the fourth-best option and making rookie 5th-rounder money.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Incorrect, Carter and Moats are second-team.

  • steeltown

    Oh I thought reports said that Vic So’oto was ahead of Carter, atleast at OTAs, making him 3rd Team

  • steeltown

    Just read that 2nd to last part, must have missed that

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I wasn’t arguing that he should be cut if he is the 4th best OLB.

    I was arguing with the conclusion that he is good enough now just because he was good enough last year. He was good enough as a special teams player to keep because he might develop as an OLB. Now the team is deeper and he needs to be able to produce as an OLB or the team should cut him in favor of someone who can. I think the players that will be cut this year will be too good to cut in favor of a special teamer.

    Conclusions are dangerous in general. Drafting Shazier for example really doesn’t say anything about what the team felt it’s biggest needs were. It’s about the top graded players who fall. I think they would have preferred a great CB to a great LB but they are smart enough to go with the greatest player at the greatest position of need vs the best player at one specific position regardless of grade.

    I never bought into the WR need or 1st round value in the draft but you could argue they would have preferred one or two of the WR’s over Shazier if they fell.

  • steelster

    Isn’t Zumwalt a ILB only. People keep mentioning him at OLB.

  • Intropy

    That’s not so. You must look at the overall value and cost of the players. Compare Carter against a UDFA challenger.


    1. Obviously the demonstrated ability is king here.

    2. Carter has had several years to develop in NFL, whereas the UDFA hasn’t. Players tend to improve more in their earliest years. That is reason to believe that the UDFA will improve more over the course of a couple of seasons than Carter will.


    1. A UDFA good enough to consider on the 53 is clearly good enough for the PS. If you put him on the 53 you then diminish the quality of the PS. I think this consideration ought to be negligible.

    2. Carter is at the end of his rookie contract. A UDFA would have several more remaining seasons where he has little choice but to play on the cheap.

    The most important factor by far is how good the player appears to be. But if it’s close or if Carter is only better by a small amount, the UDFA offers better value for the cost.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    I’d like to think the coaches will select the best option to get a hat. Remember, Lloyd, Gildon, Porter, Harrison and Woodley all road the oak for a while. If Carter’s has been demonstrating some speed of the edge he might be the best option. If he understands the “D” there is nothing wrong with having him as a solid back up. Not everyone gets to start

  • Steelers12328882

    I think he’s practicing at OLB during the OTAs.

  • Steelers12328882

    I think he was pushing Carter, whatever that means.

  • Steelers12328882

    That’s the same thought process some had with the Browns decision to cut Greg Little. Truth is if they suck bad enough it doesn’t matter how cheap they are. Cut ’em and give someone else a chance to develop.

  • Matthew Marczi

    So’oto was on the second-team defense (with Carter) because Worilds has been out.

  • steeltown

    Yea that makes sense- 1.Jones/Moats, 2.Carter/So’oto