Chris Carter, the Steelers' fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft out of Fresno State, is used to being the guy wresting roster spots away from veterans. Surviving two seasons with the Steelers despite injuries, Carter found himself the team's starter at right outside linebacker last season in wake of injuries to Jason Worilds and James Harrison.
It's a longshot, indeed, but if he's looking in his rear view mirror, it's at the diminutive but hard-charging Alan Baxter, the undrafted rookie out of Northern Illinois.
All reports suggest Baxter is an outstanding athlete, but, at 22 years of age, lacks the size and strength of a more developed veteran - like Carter.
Carter isn't the biggest player himself, but with three full offseasons under the guidance of a pro team, he's put on weight, tipping the scales at 250 pounds. Baxter weighs in at a lean 238.
Size certainly helps defend that edge, but the explosive first step Baxter possesses can't be trained, and explosion is exactly what the Steelers' defense has lacked the last two seasons.
Baxter seems destined for the practice squad, and perhaps the discussion of these two players is tilted toward Baxter in 2014. But it's not as if Carter has shown a huge amount in his two years with the team. If Baxter can back up his outstanding training camp with an impressive performance in the Steelers' preseason games, it's not out of the question to think he could make Carter's seat very uncomfortable.
Carter, though, could also make a leap forward - something not out of the question, either. He's had two years to digest the defense and get stronger. He's in a prime position to do so, with Worilds in a contract year and a history of injuries, he could find himself battling with rookie Jarvis Jones for top back-up status.
The Steelers' young outside linebackers have a lot to show starting tonight when the Giants come to Heinz Field for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
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