The Pittsburgh Steelers are elevating former Packers linebacker Tariq Carpenter to the active roster from the practice squad for Sunday’s game, the team announced. Carpenter practiced plenty this week with the rest of the team and will see time after Cole Holcomb’s season-ending knee injury.
“I have a little bit of butterflies, but I’m just excited to go out there and play,” Carpenter said. “To be with the Steelers, honestly, to put on that jersey, it means something. I just want to go out there and have fun on Sunday.”
Carpenter, 24, has played all over the defense in his career, with time at safety, edge rusher and inside linebacker while playing with the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers drafted Carpenter in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Carpenter played in 14 games as a rookie, recording eight tackles in all situations. The vast majority of his reps last season came on special teams.
Over two preseasons, Carpenter has been used as a free safety, box safety, linebacker and even as a slot cornerback. This season, he played 63 snaps of defense over the first and third Green Bay preseason games and had six tackles and a pass defended.
That versatility and special teams ability is likely the intriguing thing to the Steelers, who lost special teams ace and athletic linebacker Tanner Muse on waivers to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Carpenter should bring a lot of the same things to the table that Muse did, with the added versatility of being able to play in different places around the formation.
Graded as an off-ball linebacker, Carpenter posted an 8.92 Relative Athletic Score in his pre-draft testing, running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and posting an 11-foot-4 broad jump and 39-inch vertical, all elite for his position. He did relatively poorly in the change-of-direction drills, with a 4.46-second short shuttle and 7.5-second three-cone drill.
Carpenter is a converted safety to linebacker. That offers him some unique coverage upside, too, and he is among the more athletic players on the bottom of the roster. Carpenter has some serious juice and will lay the wood. He expects to come up for the game, too. While both may not come up despite expecting it, Carpenter is generally newer to the linebacker position.
Just like Robinson, that is a blessing and a curse. But Aaron Jones is on the other side in this one, meaning coverage at the second level is wildly important. Pittsburgh will look to snuff that out, with Carpenter potentially on the other side. His background gives him that unique footing to rely upon.