2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Select OLB Chris Carter in Round Five

It just wouldn’t be an NFL Draft unless the Steelers took a pass-rushing OLB. That is a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. The Steelers have used 12 draft picks on linebackers from 2001 until 2010. That would be 15.2% of their total draft picks over that time. Linebackers are the heartbeat of Dick Lebeau’s fire zone scheme, so there is need for a near constant flow of talent at that position.

At 6-2, 240lbs, Carter is a vastly undersized DE by the standards of the NFL. The fact that Carter has little to no experience playing linebacker is not a concern for the Steelers because they have had such consistent success converting DEs like LaMarr Woodley into bulky 3-4 OLBs that populate the nightmares of quarterbacks everywhere.

For Carter to become the next successful member of this Steeler tradition, he will have to make sure he continues to play low, especially against offensive tackles who typically stand at 6-5 or larger. Carter needs to keep his body low so that he can steal leverage from those giant players, a trick which he can likely learn quickly form the master, James Harrison. Carter shows great burst at the line and will likely have time to figure out the nuances of the NFL level game while he waits his turn in the annual LB logjam in Pittsburgh.

Carter has been a productive player in college, notching 11 sacks in 2010, good for 7th in the NCAA. Hopefully those are numbers he can continue to build upon in Pittsburgh.

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