LATROBE, Pa. -- When James Harrison missed four games last season with an eye injury, the Steelers filled in his starting spot by shifting Lawrence Timmons from inside to outside linebacker, a move that didn't work out for the Steelers or Timmons.
After Harrison underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday, the Steelers are choosing a different approach to replace him. This time, Pittsburgh is going with Chris Carter, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, to take over for the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
This not only shows increased confidence in Carter. It also indicates that Carter is more prepared for such a step up.
“You have to understand, last year before our first preseason game, I only had my playbook for two weeks," Carter said. “I had never seen the playbook before then. I had not met anybody on the coaching staff until we went to camp. But now I’m more centered. I’m more comfortable. There’s no need to stress. I have great players around me. I just have to do my job the best I can and keep improving.”
Carter has to be prepared for anything over the next three weeks. Harrison has a better chance of being available for the season opener by having surgery now, but there's no guarantee he will play Sept. 9 at Denver. Like Harrison, Jason Worilds, Harrison's backup, is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and his status is uncertain. So, Carter's role could range anywhere from a starter to third on the depth chart. Carter, who added about 10 pounds since last season, has put in the work for more responsibility.
"He's represented himself well not only since he's been here, but he had a very productive offseason and minicamp," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's a guy that has to take that step in the manner that we challenge all our second-year players. So far he's accepted that challenge."