Proposed Draft Trade Sends Steelers Polarizing Defensive Prospect

Mike Tomlin

Getty A proposed trade has head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers landing a polarizing NFL prospect.

Rumors have circled that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be interested in acquiring a higher draft pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft in order to land one of the top cornerbacks or offensive tackles in this year’s class.

NBC Sports’ Peter King threw fuel on those rumors on April 17. However, he proposed the Steelers trading up not for a cornerback or offensive tackle but for Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

“I’ll tell you the team that is the most perfect fit for Carter in the NFL: the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’d have to trade up from 17 to get him,” wrote King.

Later in his column, King called the Steelers trading up for Carter the best rumor of the week. King proposed Pittsburgh trading its No. 17 pick and other draft compensation for the No. 9 selection from the Chicago Bears.

“There could not be a more perfect coach for Carter than Mike Tomlin,” wrote King.

How Jalen Carter Could Fit With the Steelers

While the Steelers have addressed many aspects of their roster this offseason, one of the most underrated needs still remaining for the team is along the defensive line. The Steelers could really use an infusion of young talent up front on defense.

Pittsburgh signed defensive end Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year contract, but he’s not an addition, as he played in black and gold last season. The Steelers also signed defensive tackles Breiden Fehoko and Armon Watts but to one-year deals.

Furthermore, 3-time All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward turns 34 in May.

There doesn’t appear to be a better prospect for the Steelers to add to their defensive line in this year’s draft than Carter.

“When assessing a player’s draft grade, we take into consideration areas like traits, toughness, explosiveness, skill level, potential for growth and positional projections. Across the board, Carter checks out in a big way,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein of “Based upon talent, traits and projection, Carter appears ready to step into the NFL and become a productive three-down talent with Pro Bowl potential.”

The 2023 draft big boards from The Athletic, Pro Football Focus and ESPN all have Carter ranked as a top 5 player in this year’s draft. The Athletic and PFF have Carter rated as a top 3 prospect.

“Carter is neck and neck with Quinnen Williams for the best defensive tackle prospect we’ve graded at PFF (since 2014),” wrote the draft analysts at PFF. “Williams was a touch quicker, while Carter is a bit more powerful, but it’s darn close.”

Williams became a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl player in 2022 with the New York Jets.

Carter posted 83 total tackles, including 18.5 tackles for loss with 6 sacks, 4 pass defenses and 2 forced fumbles in three seasons at Georgia. He helped the program win its first national championship in more than 40 years during 2021 and then led Georgia to a repeat title last year.

Jalen Carter the Most Polarizing Figure in 2023 Draft Class?

Based on the scouting reports, it’s hard envisioning Carter even lasting to the No. 9 pick. But he could fall out of the top five because of questions about his character.

Just before the NFL combine, The Athens-Clarke County Police Department issued two arrest warrants, which alleged that Carter raced his Jeep against 24-year-old Georgia recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy.

LeCroy and Carter’s teammate, offensive lineman Devin Willock, died in an off-campus accident in Athens on January 15, 2023.

Carter did not work out at the NFL combine, but he faced difficult interview questions stemming from the accident. He then pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of racing and reckless driving.

Although Carter is moving on, maturity remains a major question mark for the Georgia defensive lineman. But that led King to argue Tomlin and the Steelers are a great fit for the potential NFL star.

For now, though, it remains just a rumor that the Steelers could trade up for Carter.

It would be one thing for general manager Omar Khan to draft Carter for great value at No. 17. But it would be rather surprising for the Steelers to give up other draft picks to select perhaps the most polarizing figure in the 2023 class when they have many other needs.

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