Like time spent with any new organization, there’s a learning curve. For Taco Charlton, the Steelers’ curve is perhaps a bit more advanced than other places he’s been. But his ultimate goal remains the same. Rush the quarterback. Regardless of system or scheme, Charlton has full confidence in his ability to do that.
Speaking with reporters following Friday’s practice, Charlton broke down how he’s adjusting to Pittsburgh’s defense.
“At the end of the day, when you let me pass rush, I can pass rush,” he told reporters via audio provided by the team. “It’s all the same. The drops and everything like that, the coverage aspect, that’s a little different. Like I said, the most similar I probably played in, I was in Miami playing a 3-4 defense there. Dropping a lot. That’s the most similar, I’d say.”
Charlton doesn’t look like the typical Steelers’ 3-4 EDGE rusher. Longer and leaner at a listed 6’6, 270 pounds (though the team site’s info is notoriously wrong), Charlton played as a 4-3 end at Michigan and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys for that role. In fact, the Cowboys reportedly selected Charlton over TJ Watt specifically because of scheme fit, viewing Charlton as the better fit for their 4-3 front.
Though Keith Butler cited coverage as his biggest area to improve, Charlton looked fluid and comfortable playing on his feet in his Steelers’ debut last weekend. He logged ten snaps, dropping into coverage from the EDGE once while moving around Pittsburgh’s front. He didn’t officially register any stats but forced Baker Mayfield out of the pocket on a Chris Wormley sack and was around the ball for Jarvis Landry’s fumble, telling reporters he did touch the football, though Joe Schobert was credited with the strip.
As he cited, Charlton wasn’t brand new to the Steelers’ front. He played in a 3-4 under Brian Flores in 2019, registering a career-high five sacks with them. His other stops including his most recent one with Kansas City, however, were much different.
“Dallas and KC, their defenses were a lot different. We were 4-3 hand in the dirt every play type of defense. I’d say that’s really the biggest difference really.”
After being on the Steelers’ practice squad for a month before getting the call-up last week, Charlton feels he’s in a much better place now.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot more comfortable here now that I’ve been here for awhile. Learning the adjustments, what to do on different routes. I definitely feel more comfortable. Coaches have done a great job bringing me along and up to speed. I’ve been enjoying it.”
Charlton will serve as the team’s #3 outside linebacker the rest of the season, rotating in with Alex Highsmith and TJ Watt. Special teamer Derrek Tuszka is also expected to chip in a couple of snaps per game. There’s a clear dropoff from Melvin Ingram to Charlton but if Charlton can play similar to the way he did against the Browns, the difference may not be noticeable.