Steelers Sign Former Kentucky Defensive End T.J. Carter

T.J. Carter

Joe Robbins/Getty Images Kelly Bryant of the Missouri Tigers tries to avoid the rush by T.J. Carter of the Kentucky Wildcats in the first quarter at Kroger Field on October 26, 2019.

On Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have signed defensive end T.J. Carter to their 90-man roster.

Carter originally entered the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. But he was released before the beginning of training camp when rosters were trimmed from 90 to 80 in a concession to the threat of the COVID-19. After that he spent a portion of last year’s camp with the Saints, but failed to make the New Orleans roster or practice squad.

He was (re)discovered by the Steelers at Kentucky’s 2021 Pro Day on March 31, where he reportedly offered up 26 reps on the bench press (225 pounds) and ran 4.97 and 4.92 40-yard dash times at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds.

Carter is the fifth member of the 2020 class that the Steelers have signed following a 2021 Pro Day, including linebacker Jarvis Miller (Penn State/UMass), wide receiver/kick returner Mathew Sexton (Eastern Michigan), former Georgia wide receiver Tyler Simmons and Notre Dame linebacker Jamir Jones, who is the younger brother of Steelers offensive tackle Jarron Jones.

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Carter’s Career at the University of Kentucky

T.J. Carter played his college ball at the University of Kentucky from 2016-19, starting 28 of 50 games and finishing his career with 71 tackles (12.5 tackles for loss), six sacks, five passes defensed and 10 quarterback hurries. His best season came as a senior, when he had 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks.

In his Kentucky Wildcats bio he indicates that the best word to describe him on the field is “intense.” The Atlanta native was a 2-star recruit who chose Kentucky over Memphis, Wyoming and Samford University, the latter of which produced former Steelers quarterback Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, who is now with the Los Angeles Rams.

At Kentucky he was known for his versatility and position flexibility (which may help endear him to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin), as well as hobbies like fencing and chess.

A Competitive D-Line Situation in Pittsburgh

Carter faces fairly stiff competition in terms of the talent/experience level on Pittsburgh’s defensive line, so a spot on the practice squad—at least initially—is probably the best he can hope for. The Steelers are set in terms of starters at defensive end with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. In terms of the reserves, the Steelers have: Tyson Alualu, who recently reversed his decision to leave the Steelers in free agency; Isaiah Buggs, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 Draft; Henry Mondeaux (Oregon), who saw his first NFL playing time in 2020 after entering the league in 2019; and 6-foot-9 defensive end Calvin Taylor, who was added to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in September and signed a one-year Reserve/Future contract in January.

Like Carter, Taylor went to the University of Kentucky, as did running back Benny Snell Jr., who is entering his third season with the Steelers.

With the addition of Carter, Pittsburgh currently has 72 players under contract for 2021.

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