Digging Deeper Into Steelers Signing Of OLB Melvin Ingram And What Makes It A Great Move

Has it finally sunk in that Pittsburgh Steelers signed veteran outside linebacker Melvin Ingram to their offseason roster just days before training camp gets underway? Yes, that really happened on Monday and yes, the Steelers are a better team as a result of the signing. While we wait to find out the financials related to the one-year contract signed by Ingram to be released (UPDATE: One-year, $4 million), let’s take a deeper look at why adding him to the roster on Monday was such a terrific move.

For starters, it has been clear all offseason that the Steelers needed to add better and more experienced depth at the outside linebacker position prior to Week 1. While the team did add outside linebacker Quincy Roche via the 2021 NFL Draft and while he might ultimately be a steal, he will take some time to groom, nonetheless. Roche is theoretically behind Cassius Marsh on the outside linebacker depth chart ahead of training camp. With all due respect to Marsh, he’s more of an asset to the Steelers on special teams than he is as an outside linebacker. The fact that he entered Monday morning as the team’s third string outside linebacker behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith was super scary.

With the addition of Ingram, both Marsh and Roche each move down a spot on the depth chart. On top of that, each player must now earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster if only four in total wind up being kept at that position. Part of earning a roster spot will include being extremely strong on special teams the remainder of the summer. Sure, both Marsh and Roche could ultimately wind up making the 53-man roster. That said, the addition of Ingram now clouds up the certainness of that happening and that’s fine.

With Ingram now in the fold, Highsmith won’t just be able to easily skate to a Week 1 starting nod opposite Watt. Yes, Highsmith is still the favorite to wind up being the Week 1 starter, but you can bet Ingram will make sure the second year Charlotte product earns it just the same. On top of that, Highsmith will gain another experienced edge rusher tutor with Ingram now in the fold. That’s not a bad thing on the heels of the Steelers losing a Highsmith tutor during the offseason when Bud Dupree signed with the Tennessee Titans. Short term or long term, the addition of Ingram should make Highsmith a better player.

Assuming Highsmith does indeed start opposite Ingram in Week 1, the Steelers now have the three edge rushers they can confidently rotate through. Ingram has played on both sides throughout his NFL career in addition to being allowed to line up and rush from the inside quite a bit. Highsmith can also play both sides should a need arise. Watt can as well, although he’s best served to play his usual left side spot. Don’t be surprised if Ingram subs out for Highsmith quite frequently throughout the 2021 season as Watt will be hard to get off the field.

If, however, Ingram does somehow grab the Week 1 starting spot from Highsmith during the next seven weeks, the second-year player would still see plenty of playing time relieving the two outside starters.

Yes, Ingram was still unsigned as of Monday morning for a reason and the reason for that was likely due to his age and recent injury history. He was only able to play in seven games last season due to a knee injury. That knee injury he first suffered in Week 2 caused him to go on the Chargers Reserve/Injured list for several weeks. Upon his return to action, Ingram played well but ultimately landed back on the Chargers Reserve/Injured list again come Week 12 due to him reinjuring that knee.

I’m guessing that Ingram’s one-year deal will total out at around $3 million, which is the same amount that former Chargers guard Trai Turner signed for a few weeks ago. (UPDATE: One-year, $4 million) If that’s about the amount, it’s a nice investment into the Steelers 2021 defense by general manager Kevin Colbert, who loves himself players with high draft pedigree. If Ingram, Watt, and Highsmith can all stay healthy throughout the 2021 season, the Steelers will have a nice threesome of edge rushers to work with and that’s not bad at all on the heels of the team losing Dupree during the offseason.

Here’s something else to consider when it comes to Ingram’s Monday signing. If he has a good 2021 season and stays healthy, it might land him a nice deal as an unrestricted free agent in March of 2022 and the byproduct of such could be a 2023 compensatory draft pick for the Steelers and as high as a fifth rounder.

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