Could the Pittsburgh Steelers trade up to get Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter? That might seem far-fetch, but Peter King of NBC Sports suggested just that in his column this week.
Carter has been sliding down draft boards since running into legal troubles early in March when Athens police issued a warrant for his arrest during the 2023 NFL Combine.
Carter was charged in a road-racing incident that ended with the death of his teammate Devin Willock and a recruiting staffer, Chandler LeCroy. The Athens police said that Carter exhibited ‘racing-like’ qualities, though he was not driving the vehicle that crashed. Carter was charged with two misdemeanors for racing and reckless driving. He pleaded no-contest and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine, and must perform 80 hours of community service.
Carter was once considered to be a consensus top-three draft pick, with only quarterbacks Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud regularly picked ahead of him. Now, it seems likely that Carter will fall somewhere down into the top 10.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, seems sure that he will not fall beyond that, and did not permit teams drafting below 10th to host Carter for a pre-draft visit.
“I’m confident Jalen will go in the top 10,” Rosenhaus said on April 3. “He’s a good person, a family man, loves football, and is a generational talent.”
The Steelers did send head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan to the Georgia pro day.
Pittsburgh currently has the No. 17 overall pick, well outside of where Carter is expected to go, but the Steelers have been connected with the Chicago Bears about trading up to get pick No. 9.
“Bears-Steelers is possible,” Bears reporter E.J. Snyder said in a live stream on his Youtube page last week. “They’ve talked about it. I know they’ve talked about it. It’s by no means assured. Trust me, every team is talking to every team. … It’s not any sort of indicator that’s bound to happen. They have had that discussion.”
The conventional wisdom was that the Steelers would be trading up to get one of the top tackles, such as Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski.
But Carter would certainly be an interesting option if he falls that far.
“Best rumor of the week: Steelers trading up from 17 to nine if Carter’s there,” wrote King. “There could not be a more perfect coach for Carter than Mike Tomlin.”
The Steelers certainly have a need on the defensive, as well as offensive line. Starting defensive tackle Cam Heyward is 33 years old and has two seasons remaining on his contract.
When the Steelers drafted Heyward in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it took him to his third season to work into a starting role, so drafting his replacement this spring would seem to be right on schedule.
Heyward actually took some time to break down some of Carter’s film for his Not Just Football Podcast. Heyward said that a player like Carter might be NFL ready now.
— Not Just Football (@NotJustFootball) April 13, 2023
“That’s clean defensive line play,” Heyward said, breaking down one of Carter’s reps against Mississippi State. “You don’t always get that with a lot of guys until they get to the next level.”
Whether the Steelers would take the chance on Carter, a chance magnified by the need to trade up to get him and their lack of interaction with him before the draft, remains to be seen. But it certainly is an interesting possibility.