The Pittsburgh Steelers love to collect their former first-round draft picks, as you all know, but recently, they were forced to swap one for another at the outside linebacker position, trading Melvin Ingram and promoting Taco Charlton from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
Ingram was unhappy with his role in the team, anticipating reduced playing time as T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith got healthy, and while it might be too strong to say that he forced his way off the team, it’s clear that his dissatisfaction motivated the Steelers to move him for a sixth-round pick.
As a result, though, the focus over the past couple of days has shifted to Charlton, who was drafted just a couple of spots ahead of Watt in 2017. He will now be tasked with serving as the rotational depth behind him, and presumably the next man up.
“For his first game with us, I thought he played very well, using his hands in the run game”, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward told reporters yesterday of the newest member of the 53. “I don’t know who caused the fumble, but I thought Taco was part of it as well. And he’s gonna continue to get better from here on out”.
He’s referring to the Jarvis Landry fumble by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter on Sunday, which was credited to inside linebacker Joe Schobert, but which Charlton may have helped to cause with his contact on the wide receiver. He also helped influence the sack credited to Chris Wormley, as well.
Ingram was a significant talent to add just before training camp opened, and the Steelers made it clear that they intended to use him. He did play about 250 snaps in the first six games of the season, which is substantial, even if influenced by the health of the starters. But they also used some three-OLB sets to help get him on the field more.
Heyward was asked if they might do some of that with Charlton as well, and he was very receptive to the possibility. “I think Taco’s got the unique range to play inside a little bit, too”, he said. “He’s got long arms, he’s taller-built, so we’ll see. We’ve still got some d-linemen that can rush as well”.
Yet Highsmith played 92 percent of the defensive snaps on Sunday, and Watt played 86 percent. Charlton logged 17 percent of the snaps, and Derrek Tuszka just eight percent. If I were Charlton, I wouldn’t be getting my expectations up too high right now. He’ll have to earn playing time.