It’s not an ideal situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers at outside linebacker, especially after trading away 10-year NFL veteran Melvin Ingram on Tuesday prior to the league’s trade deadline.
Now, behind All-Pro T.J. Watt and developing second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, the Steelers are lacking overall depth and relative experience as NFL journeyman Taco Charlton currently sits on the roster as the No. 3 OLB, and second-year pro Derrek Tuszka is the fourth man on the depth chart holding down the special teams role.
At arguably the most important position on the defense, there isn’t much depth behind the two starters.
What the Steelers do have in Charlton though is pedigree. Charlton was a first-round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft who came off the board just two picks ahead of Watt. Along with his first-round pedigree, Charlton has recorded 11 career sacks in the NFL and has played for four teams and seen action at all four stops.
His ability to pick up the playbook quickly and see the field right away has the Steelers believing they’ll be able to maintain their three outside linebacker rotation and 3-OLB packages that the Steelers were running when Ingram was on the team.
Plus, Watt is happy to work with a fellow draft year guy in Charlton, getting to know him a bit more now that both are in the league.
“…We’re kind of finding a nice little role for him, especially in the rotation, and in our package, where all three of us are out there at the same time,” Watt said to reporters Saturday when asked about Charlton and his fit, according to video via Steelers.com. “He’s wanting to do everything that we need, anything possible to get up on the field and I’m just happy to work with him. And I think he’s only gonna get better as the season progresses.”
Right away in his Steelers’ debut in Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns, Charlton made an impact for the Steelers, playing roughly 10 snaps at outside linebacker and possibly having a hand in forcing Jarvis Landry to fumble late in the Steelers’ win.
It was a good start for a guy who has bounced around the league and now finds himself with a great opportunity in front of him.
Working with Watt will certainly help, as Weill playing under Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler, who have a knack for getting the most out of pass rushers in Pittsburgh.
Despite being draft-year members, Watt and Charlton are a bit unfamiliar with each other. That will change rather quickly being teammates, which is something Watt is glad to experience.
“No, I think during the draft process, you’re just so focused on answering questions the right way, talking to so many different people at the combine,” Watt said to reporters regarding his interactions with Charlton during the draft process. “It’s so chaotic that you don’t really have time to kind of meet and mingle with the guys like you’d want to, but I’ve been watching from afar and glad to have on our team for sure.”