Though technically in his second year with the Steelers, it might be more appropriate to call linebacker Chris Carter -- who had no minicamp or OTAs due to the lockout last year -- a 'redshirt rookie' as the difference of having a full NFL offseason has been a boon to his development.
A Fresno State product who has had a solid training camp thus far, Carter will start in place of an injured James Harrison Sunday night against the Colts and possibly into the regular season if Harrison, and OLB Jason Worilds are still on the shelf with injuries.
Carter, who played in parts of eight games last year mostly on special teams, admitted that he was overwhelmed during his rookie season.
"Last year – my first game against the Washington Redskins, I got my playbook two weeks before that. I had never seen the playbook, never met anybody on the staff here – it was a big transition. It was a big tornado for me. Now I feel a lot more settled, a lot more comfortable. No need to stress. I’ve got great players around me – big time playmakers like Troy Polamalu, guys like that I looked up to when I was younger – so now I get an opportunity to go and make some plays happen with them."
Players often talk about the game's frenetic speed 'slowing down' as they develop more field awareness and up their football I.Q. -- the proverbial mental light bulb flicking on -- and Carter said he's felt happen during camp.
"Most definitely. I see plays coming before they come now which is something I couldn’t say last year – hell, I barely even knew what we were doing last year, [let alone] what the offense was doing. I honestly couldn’t even say I learned the playbook until maybe week six – I didn’t know why I was doing this, or what the guy next to me was doing – now I’m able to answer questions like that for myself and feel confident about my abilities."
Carter says he's getting guidance from veterans on what he needs to do if he intends to continue to add to the number under the "years pro" header next to his name on the roster.
"Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley, all those guys are staying on top of me – they’re taking care of me mentally making sure [that] I do what I need to do – they’ve got me to the point now where im a responsible enough pro – I stay after I do a little extra just because that’s necessary if Iwant to play and be at the same level as those guys."
"If you do it 99% - shoot, if you do it 100% - try and go 110% - set a new standard. Set a new 100% mark. That’s what I got to do out there everyday."