BEREA — Tank Carder was a two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2011 Rose Bowl MVP while at Texas Christian.
In the NFL, though, his contributions have largely occurred on special teams for the Browns.
“That’s my role, I’m a full-phase special teams guy,” Carder said Thursday following practice. “But if I do get in defensively, I feel comfortable with what the coaches are asking me to do. I’ll just go in there and do my job.”
The second-year pro is likely to have that opportunity Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Starting inside linebacker Craig Robertson has not practiced after suffering a sprained knee in Cincinnati, elevating Carder into his spot alongside defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson.
Barring a dramatic turn of events, the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder will make his second NFL start — and first in a 3-4 defense.
“We ran a 4-2-5 in college, so I’m used to just two inside linebackers,” he said. “But as far as the whole 3-4 scheme and things like that, it’s all relatively new.
“Hat’s off to Craig. He’s a hell of a football player. But I think I can play. I think I’m a decent player. Hopefully, they’ll be no drop-off at all and I can cover any of those guys on the Steelers.”
Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski expressed confidence in Carder, who was claimed off waivers from the Bills on the eve of the 2012 season. He made a career-high seven tackles against the Bengals — the second most on the team behind Jackson’s nine — while only playing 2½ quarters after Robertson went down.
“I am as comfortable with Tank as I was with Craig, (Barkevious) Mingo, (Ahtyba) Rubin, Billy Winn, all our guys because of the depth we have,” defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “They’re all accountable and I believe they will do the job to the best of their ability.”
Carder also feels optimistic about his chances of contributing against the Steelers. As a rookie, his only start — and lone tackle in 2012 — took place at Pittsburgh on Dec. 30.
“To get one season and that one start under your belt in the NFL helps your confidence tremendously,” Carder said. “If I get another one Sunday, it will definitely be a high that will be remembered. You don’t want anyone to get hurt, but it’s great to get in any time you can, so it should be fun.”
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton played defensive back for Dick LeBeau with the Bengals, then coached under him with the Steelers. Though LeBeau is now 76 years old and in his 10th season as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator, their friendship remains as strong as ever.
“Probably everything that I am, he’s a big reason why,” Horton said. “It’s more of a personal than a professional relationship that goes beyond football. I carry some of the life lessons that I’ve learned from him into my life, and have instilled them into my children and my coaching career.”
LeBeau was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, recognizing his 14-year career and 62 interceptions as a cornerback with the Lions. The London, Ohio, native also has spent 41 seasons coaching in the NFL.
“For a man to contribute as much as he did — as a player and coach — and to have as many players on his side, I think it was justice for him to be in the Hall of Fame,” Horton said. “Most players that you hear talk about him, it’s a father-son relationship. I’m sure those guys were just as proud as I was for him.”
Twelve players have started Cleveland’s first 10 games, including left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack, left guard John Greco, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and tight end Jordan Cameron on offense. Cornerback Joe Haden, nose tackle Phil Taylor, defensive end Desmond Bryant, safety T.J. Ward and linebackers D’Qwell Jackson, Paul Kruger and Robertson have also gotten the nod in each contest.
• Longtime Browns owner Art Modell, who moved the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season, failed to make the list of 25 semifinalists for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Browns tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) and Robertson (knee) did not practice, while defensive end Armonty Bryant (back), Schwartz (toe) and running back Willis McGahee (knee) were limited.
Punter Spencer Lanning (left knee), running back Fozzy Whittaker (ankle), guard Jason Pinkston (ankle) and Kruger (finger) were full participants.
For the Steelers, defensive end Brett Keisel (foot), linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) did not participate.
Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) was limited, while tight end Heath Miller (personal reasons), guard Ramon Foster (ankle) and center Fernando Velsasco (knee) took part in all team activities.
Tight end Matt Spaeth (foot) also practiced for the first time this season. Pittsburgh now has 21 days to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will call the Browns/Steelers game on CBS.
• The Browns-Bengals game drew a 27.5 local television rating and a 50 share in Northeast Ohio, which ranked 15th among NFL markets. The same matchup earned a 36.6 rating and 58 share in Cincinnati.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.