The Pittsburgh Steelers have been battling injuries to key players since their Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. During that game, they lost both Cameron Heyward and Diontae Johnson. Now, more than halfway through the season, they have gotten those key players back, but have lost others. That includes a blow to the inside linebackers group. But now news has come out that they plan to elevate a practice squad player for the Week 10 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. He comes with an added bonus, he played for the Packers in 2022.
The Steelers must fill some of those gaps in the depth chart at inside linebacker. Unfortunately, Cole Holcomb, who signed with the Steelers last offseason from the Washington Commanders, sustained a season-ending knee injury during the Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans. His counterpart Elandon Roberts is also battling a knee injury and is listed as questionable.
That’s where practice squad member Tariq Carpenter comes in. Carpenter spoke with the media and told them that he expects to be elevated in time for the game. The deadline for the team to move a player for a Sunday game is the Saturday before at 4 PM EST. Carpenter sounds excited about his new opportunity.
“I get to put on that Steelers jersey. I get to actually say I’m a Steeler. Just trying to solidify myself,” Carpenter told the media after practice.
Green Bay ultimately released Carpenter in August of 2023. During his time with the Packers, he played in 14 games, but started none. He had eight total tackles. He was signed to the practice squad in Pittsburgh on September 2, 2023. While there is unlikely to be any “bad blood” between Carpenter and his old team, players always seem to bring a little extra to show them what they are missing.
A Georgia native, Carpenter played safety at Georgia Tech for five years because of the extra “COVID year” that applied in 2020. During that time, he played in 52 games, including playing in 50 consecutive games to end his college career. In 2021, he had 65 tackles, Carpenter seemed to improve with time.
Carpenter, at 6’3″ and 229 pounds, impressed scouts at the Georgia Tech Pro Day. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical jump and an 11’4″ broad jump. He also presented a bit of a conundrum. He is fast for a linebacker, but not for a safety. Carpenter presents a bit of an opportunity to teams, referring to himself as “Play-Doh,” he is more explosive and is looser through the hips and legs than most linebackers.
The Steelers’ Inside Linebackers Room Seems Cursed
The Steelers have had some issues at inside linebacker the past few years. After the dismal 2022 season, Head Coach Mike Tomlin seemed to clean house, letting nearly everyone except Mark Robinson go. They signed Holcomb as well as Roberts, who was most recently with the Miami Dolphins, and Kwon Alexander, from the New York Jets, in free agency.
While it would have been impossible to predict the tragic injury that Holcomb sustained and he will not be easy to replace, the Steelers have to be glad that they have been using all three of the veterans on a rotational basis. In fact, Alexander made an interception in the final moments of the Titans’ game to ensure the Steelers’ victory.
Now with Holcomb definitely out for the final nine games, the team will have to employ Tomlin’s “next man up mentality” and the good news for players like Robinson and Carpenter is that they will get the shot they have been waiting for.
The Steelers need him to fill in at inside linebacker right now, but it is possible if he shines, he could find himself in some more unique packages. Pittsburgh is not above using players in hybrid positions, both Patrick Peterson and T.J. Watt have found themselves moved around a bit this season, as the team tries to maximize the talent they have.