2021 Offseason Questions: What Impact Will Melvin Ingram Have On Defense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: What kind of impact will the signing of Melvin Ingram have on the defense as a whole?

Intuitively, we have always known that the Steelers, like every other team, are perpetually evaluating their roster, and exploring the possible ways in which they can improve.

Ordinarily, we don’t see much action on that front, which is what makes the signing of former Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram feel somewhat out of character. But he’s here now, everyone generally seems to be pleased about it, and we’re in the process of evaluating, to the extent that we can know, just what that means.

Ingram was not signed with the expectation of him stepping in as a starter. Second-year Alex Highsmith will get that opportunity, though perhaps if he falters, Ingram will be there as a safety net. He projects to play a couple dozens snaps per game, however.

Prior to the Ingram signing, of course, the only outside linebackers of note on the roster behind the projected starters were Cassius Marsh and rookie sixth-round pick Quincy Roche. That is to say, not much. There is total unambiguity surrounding the fact that Ingram is the number three guy…maybe even more accurate to say the 2B, perhaps.

But we won’t know the full implications of this signing before the season actually plays out. Of course, we know that this move has a lot to do with providing the team with a safety net. Insulating against injury or performance is crucial, especially at such an important position.

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