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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.

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