By Matt Popchock
Chuck Noll once said, “Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing,” and if you’re an opposing player, it’s something you’ll feel if Terrance Carter has his way.
The second-year defensive lineman, currently in his first tour of duty with the Pittsburgh Power, sure has a way of making that player look downright clueless if he can get into the backfield.
With 20.5 tackles (17 solo) and a team-best 4.0 sacks, Carter has emerged as a rock-steady leader on a defense that has kept the Power (8-7) in the Arena Football League playoff hunt. His critical first-half field goal block and last-second forced fumble sparked the Power to a very important home-field win over the division rival Milwaukee Mustangs two weekends ago. He has been a regular starter on a unit that has held ten of its first 15 opponents to 50 or fewer offensive points–a respectable showing in the high-octane AFL.
After a tough loss in Orlando, an even stiffer challenge awaits Carter and his teammates. On Sunday night at 7:30 they will kick off their final regular season game at CONSOL Energy Center against the West Division champion Arizona Rattlers (14-2), proud owners of the second-ranked scoring offense in the league.
Here’s what Terrance had to say before practice earlier this week about his role in the success of the Power’s defense, what adjustments need to be made after last week’s disappointing result, and the keys to Sunday’s game:
Q: Sunday’s game has had a lot of buildup, for obvious reasons. What does this team need to clean up in preparing for it?
A: I really think special teams needs to be cleaned up. It’s a major factor, and it’s been a problem the whole season. Another thing is that we have to play four quarters. In my opinion, we haven’t really put together a complete game, and shown what we can really do with the talent, and our quality of players. We work too hard to play one half, or a first quarter and third quarter, and let it come down to a field goal, or something else.
Q: Why has the third quarter been such a bugaboo for this team? (The Power surrendered third-quarter leads in each of the last two games.)
A: I don’t know what it is…if it’s youth, or anything, but it’s just the mentality you have to have that anything can happen at any point in time in the Arena Football League. You just have to come out playing 100 percent; there is no buildup in this league, especially not right now. And it’s not because we’re a new team or anything, but when you put together any new team, you still play as a team, win as a team, and lose as a team.
Q: Win or lose, the defense, by and large, has been a strength of this team, and it played well last week. Knowing what you know about Arizona, will Sunday be one of those games where the defense really has to take the bull by the horns?
A: When you look at what we’ve accomplished defensively [as a whole], we definitely have to feed off each other. We’ve had bad games, and the offense is still building with injuries, and different things. But it’s a game where you have to feed off of each other. As a defensive player, I do feel we have to step it up even more, because if you get three or four stops in an arena football game, and you believe in your offense–and I believe in Bernard and them [being able to] take the ball down the field–you can take advantage of those turnovers and those stops.
Q: How hard is it to be a defensive player in general, let alone a lineman, in the AFL? The league, by its very nature, seems to handcuff defensive players.
A: Exactly…and we’re already bound by penalties for if you jump offside two times…but we’re already at a disadvantage on the defensive side of the ball. You have wide receivers coming in motion, there’s jump sets, and the ball is gone in less than two seconds. As a defensive player, that’s what you have to love about it. You have to love being the underdog on every play, not knowing what’s going on, and you have to know that, every single play, you’re going to get off the ball, and you’re going to go 100 percent, no matter how fast the ball is going, and no matter how fast it gets down the field.
Q: Your nickname–or, at least the one given to you at CONSOL Energy Center–is Terrance “Total Chaos” Carter. Out of morbid curiosity, what’s the most chaos you’ve ever caused on a football field?
A: (laughs) I don’t know about “chaos,” but I definitely believe in pressure. I love sacks, and on a personal level, I want sacks. I want those stats personally. But if I can provide fumble, pressures, anything to make him throw a bad pass…that’s what I want. I want to push that O-lineman into the quarterback, I want to be back there, I want him to know that I’m there, every single time.
Q: It’s a lofty goal, considering how hard it is in the Arena Football League to get sacks…and just because a player doesn’t get them doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad player…
A: Right, definitely, that’s exactly what it means. It’s just about the team, and the gameplan going into it. An offensive-minded coach is going to see, guys are getting pressure [when a quarterback does a] five-step drop, so we’re not going to go five steps. Or maybe he says, they’re good at the run, so we’re not going to run. No matter what, you just have to have that drive to beat the man in front of you every single play.
Q: You’re 8-7, and you’re knocking on the door of the playoffs. To this point, how has this season squared up against your expectations of yourself, and of the team?
A: To be honest, I am disappointed, because I did have higher goals [in mind]. You see the talent, you see the names, you see us work hard in practice, you see us when we do play the game right, and as it should be played. So right now, we’re under par, in my mind. I know what this team is capable of, and I’m never going to be satisfied with our play, win or lose, because I always feel that you should get better. But going into the playoffs, with our backs against the wall, we’re going to see what we’re made of right now. Have we wasted these last 20 weeks, or are we going to step it up and win these last three games, and show Pittsburgh what we’re made of?
Q: What will constitute an “above par” performance on Sunday?
A: Stepping up on defense. We need to be 100 percent on special teams. We need stops and turnovers on defense, and we need to score 100 percent [of the time] on offense. This is no longer about building, this is no longer about being a new team in the league. We need to step up and do what we came here to do.
Be sure to keep it logged onto 937thefan.com for more coverage of your Pittsburgh Power as they prepare for Sunday’s matchup with the Rattlers!