Steelers Predicated to Land ‘Eye-Popping’ Talent to Pair with Cam Heyward

With the Pittsburgh Steelers sitting at 3-7 and in last place in the AFC North, it’s looking increasingly likely that the team will have a Top 10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. And with needs on both sides of the ball, the organization could go in any number of directions with its first-round pick, including Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr.

But Josh Edwards of CBS Sports expects that the Steelers will choose a lineman in round one, assuming that the recently-installed GM/assistant GM pairing of Omar Khan and Andy Weidl remains convinced that Kenny Pickett is the long-term answer at quarterback.

“Quality interior defensive linemen are both high in demand and low in supply. Pittsburgh may have bigger needs, but it cannot bypass a talent like (Jalen) Carter,” writes Edwards, making reference to the standout Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle, who is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds but moves like a much smaller defender.

That is, unless the Steelers decide to trade down with a quarterback-needy team that covets one of three QBs who have been deemed worthy of a Top 5 selection — a trio that includes Bryce Young (Alabama) and Will Levis (Kentucky). The No. 4 overall pick “could be a destination for a team trading up to select C.J. Stroud,” adds Edwards, who has the Seattle Seahawks grabbing the Ohio State signal-caller No. 5 overall.

Scouting Reports on Jalen Carter

As for Carter, he has been described by Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network as a “disruptive interior defensive lineman” who “flashes elite first-step quickness to invade gaps just as plays materialize, eroding blocking schemes…. Beyond his burst, Carter has elite lateral agility … (and) covers eye-popping amounts of ground as a lateral mover off his initial explosion.”

Pro Football Focus (PFF) is even more effusive in its praise for Carter. Earlier this month, Mitch Kaiser of PFF said: “It’s hard to find a 300-pounder who moves the way Jalen Carter does. He has a ridiculously quick first step, which is rare to see from a player of his size.”

But it’s his pass-rush ability that separates him from the rest of his peers.

“Teams basically have to double team him in the gap every play if they want to stand a chance,” adds Kaiser, having noted that Carter produced a 90.0 pass rushing grade in 2021 and was arguably the best player on a Georgia defense that produced five first-round picks in the 2022 draft.

Never mind that Carter has just 22 tackles this season, with two tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

“Injuries have been the only thing holding him back, as he has had a nagging MCL sprain for most of this season,” concludes Kaiser.

Jalen Carter Would Fill a Steelers Need

Pittsburgh’s defensive line figures to look significantly different next season, as backup nose tackle Tyson Alualu is likely to retire after struggling to come back from the broken ankle he suffered during Week 2 of the 2021 season. Meanwhile, defensive linemen Larry Ogunjobi and Chris Wormley are set to be unrestricted free agents.

That leaves first-team All-Pro Cam Heyward and 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal as the likely starters alongside nose tackle Montravius Adams, the latter of whom will be in the second year of a two-year contract. The addition of Carter would allow defensive line to remain a strength of the team as the Steelers move into year 2 of the Kenny Pickett era.