The then-Green Bay Packers defender had spent his entire football career up to that point listed as a safety, but the Packers decided that his best way to make an impact on the team in 2023 after playing mostly special teams as a rookie was at linebacker.
The Packers were wrong. Carpenter was released at the end of his second training camp in Green Bay.
But they might not have been wrong about him making an impact as a linebacker. The Steelers snapped him up and added him to their practice squad, letting Carpenter work as the fifth inside linebacker behind experienced veterans Kwon Alexander, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, along with fellow ILB neophyte Mark Robinson.
“I’ve been trying to take advantage of the days being on the practice squad, because of changing positions,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been getting better. We’ve got some good vets in the room that make sure we’re all up on our Ps and Qs.”
Carpenter got his B.S. from Georgia Tech in literature, media and communication. He’s been getting his master’s in linebacker from the Steelers veteran trio.
“Don’t make the game so complicated,” Carpenter said. “That’s probably the most important thing that I’ve gotten from them. And communication. They’re really good at communication and holding everyone accountable. (Alexander and Roberts) hold each other accountable and that’s pretty cool to see.”
With Holcomb out for the season with a knee injury suffered in Week 11, Carpenter has been called up from the practice squad, and will figure to at least play a special teams role this week. Ironically, it will come against the same Packers that released him in August.
“You can’t really think about it too much,” he said. “I’m not trying to think, ‘Oh, it’s the Packers.’ I’m gonna go out here and do it for myself. Really just glad I can put on a Steelers jersey and I can actually say I’m a Steeler. … I’ve got a little bit of butterflies. I’m just excited to go out there and play.”
49 • Tariq Carpenter, Inside Linebacker, Georgia Tech
6-foot-3, 230 pounds, 24 years old, 2nd Season
Acquired: The Steelers signed Carpenter to their practice squad on Sept. 2 after he was released by the Packers at the end of training camp.
Last season: The Packers drafted Carpenter in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech and he spent the entire season on the Green Bay 53-man roster.
After sitting out the first three games, he played in 14 consecutive contests, playing mostly on special teams. He only played 15 snaps on defense, in Weeks 16 and 17, played as both a safety and a linebacker. He finished the season with eight tackles.
|Year||GP||GS||Tackles||Sacks||FFs||INTs||DEF Snaps||PFF Grade|
College: A three-star prospect coming out of Long County High School in the southeast part of Georgia, Carpenter committed to Georgia Tech as a safety and spent most of his college career patrolling the secondary for the Yellow Jackets.
After playing primarily on special teams as a freshman, Carpenter became the starting strong safety in Georgia Tech’s 3-4 defense that resembled the Steelers’ base unit. He stayed as a starting safety when GT transitioned to a 4-2-5 base defense.
Working out at Georgia Tech’s pro day after his senior season, Carpenter ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and posted a 39-inch vertical jump and 11-foot-4 broad jump. Overall, he had a 9.05 Relative Athletic Score as a strong safety.
Salary cap and future: Carpenter will earn $216,000 if he remains on the practice squad for the entire season, plus he will earn the NFL minimum salary for being called up this week.
The rest of the 90: