Outside linebacker Taco Charlton made his debut with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the team’s Sunday Week 8 road game against the Cleveland Browns, and while the former first round draft pick out of Michigan only logged 10 total defensive snaps in that contest, the tape shows that he represented himself well overall in that limited playing time. On Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler addressed the media, and during his session he was asked to comment on Charlton, especially about how he feels he’s progressing so far.
“He’s doing well,” Butler said of Charlton. “He’s still got some things to do in terms of the passing game. You know, what’s hard for sometimes our guys to understand as outside linebackers, and they are outside linebackers, they’ve got to do linebacker things, not defensive end things all the time. So, they they’ve got to get in coverage and understand coverage and there’s a little bit more to it than playing with your hand down all the time.”
Charlton didn’t register any official defensive stats in Sunday’s game against the Browns. That said, one could make an argument that he deserved credit for half a sack and half a forced fumble in that contest. That’s not bad for just 10 total snaps played. Moving forward, he likely needs to learn the defense a little bit better, and to hear Butler talk on Thursday, the coverage aspects of it and his role within them, specifically.
Now that the Steelers have traded away outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, Charlton is likely to be the primary outside linebacker used to spell starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith moving forward. While Ingram obviously wasn’t happy having that role, Butler believes Charlton will be just fine with it.
“I think so,” Butler said of thinking Charlton will be fine with a limited playing time role moving forward. “We want to have a rotation because I mean that’s a tough position. Those guys are wrestling 300-pound guys all the time. Unless they get lucky enough to get a tight end every now and then. But those of you who have wrestled in this group know how tiring that gets. So, we’ve got to have some backup. Got to have some backup and it can’t be that much of a letdown when we have somebody come in and play for those two guys.”
The Steelers also have outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka on their 53-man roster along with Watt, Highsmith and Charlton and Butler said on Thursday that even he is likely to see a little bit of playing time on defense moving forward as well.
“Both him and Derek, I don’t mind [playing either as much as we played Ingram],” Butler said on Thursday. “We’ve got to rest those guys [Watt and Highsmith] and we don’t have a choice in doing that. Yeah, I think so. I feel just as comfortable putting them in as I did Melvin [Ingram], sure.”
The Steelers are now preparing to play the Chicago Bears on Monday and that contest figures to include Charlton playing at least another 10 total snaps or so. It will be really interesting to see how much he’s asked to drop into coverage against the Bears and how he handles playing against a very mobile quarterback in rookie Justin Fields.