Fans always want to hear about what's next. The intrigue of the NFL is rooted in the hope; speculation regarding one move ignites into optimism that one move is all a team needs to get over the hump.
Post Gazette reporter R.J. Schaffer spoke with Carter, noting the fourth-year player is "bothered" by that speculation.
"Absolutely," Carter told Schaffer, his apparent response to a question regarding his level of displeasure with the idea of Harrison's return. "I respect James and I have all the admiration in the world for him. He's a great dude and a great veteran when I got here and showed me a lot of things he didn't have to, but at the end of the day, this is a job, and we're all competing."
You can't blame him for feeling that way. Carter, just like Harrison and just about every other contributor on the Steelers' team, put in the work to keep their respective roster spot.
Carter has seen spats of playing time in his tenure in Pittsburgh, which began when he was a fifth-round pick out of Fresno State in 2011. He's seen at least eight games of action in his first three years, making three starts last season due to injuries to LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones.
With Woodley now in Oakland, and Worilds and Jones cemented in the starting positions heading into training camp, Carter is poised to become the team's top back-up - a position that's seen plenty of starts over the last three years. Because of that, depth is thought to be a key question mark in 2014.
The notion of bringing Harrison back to bolster that depth understandably makes Carter uncomfortable. It's far from a sure thing, though. Harrison turned 36 in May, and didn't impress in one season with Cincinnati after Pittsburgh released him. He's thought to be more of a back-up plan right now, and it'd be likely, if he was brought in, he wouldn't be guaranteed a roster spot in camp.
If Carter can show (or has already shown in minicamp) he's capable of stepping in as a starter in the event of injury, the team likely wouldn't bring Harrison in for a look. So in at least one respect, it's up to Carter whether or not Harrison makes his return to the franchise that saw him have one of the best individual seasons of any defensive player in history when he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
How Carter handles the possibility of the team adding camp competition may factor into his 2014 season, the last on his current contract. He hits free agency in 2015, and with the Steelers having given Worilds only a one-year deal on the transition tag, they may be in the market for a new starter.