Midway through Monday afternoon, it was announced via Ian Rapoport that the Pittsburgh Steelers had officially signed former Chargers EDGE rusher Melvin Ingram to a one-year deal. Now it was reported on Sunday via Jason La Canfora that Ingram was flying into Pittsburgh that night for a visit with the team at the start of the week which was met with some speculation. It is understood that there is a clear lack of depth behind starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith on the depth chart at the EDGE position, having the likes of journeyman Cassius Marsh and sixth-round rookie Quincy Roche as the only logical names on the roster.
Given the clear need at the position, it was expected that Pittsburgh would bring in an edge rusher at some point via FA signing or trade, but those screaming to the hills for Ingram or Justin Houston were met with backlash due to the fact that Pittsburgh rarely ever signs FAs outside of the organization over the age of 30 and the fact that Ingram had been out on the market for so long and as a former Pro-Bowl player, he likely would command more money than Pittsburgh would be willing to give.
However, after having possibly the worst statistical season of his career due to a knee injury that limited him to just seven games played where he didn’t record a single sack, his value on the market was likely very low and was in no position to command top-dollar. So, Steelers fans get the benefit of GM Kevin Colbert opting to stray away from recent trends and sign the 32-year old defender to a one-year deal to try and recoup his value to cash in next offseason. Given that Ingram is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off of a legitimate injury, it can be expected that he will most likely contribute as a rotational outside linebacker/ situational pass rusher on third downs and in clear passing situations behind Watt and Highsmith.
Knowing this, I wanted to dive in and see what a hopefully healthy Ingram can provide Pittsburgh as a pass rusher.
One of Ingram’s heralded skills as a pass rusher is his ability to kick inside on obvious pass rush situations/third downs and rush head up on the guard. Standing at 6’2, 247lb, Ingram has a clear athletic advantage in terms of speed and quickness in these pass rush situations.
One of the moves he likes to use on bigger, slower interior offensive linemen is a hesi/juke step standup over the guard like we see on this pass rush rep against #77 Bradley Boseman of the Ravens, faking inside with a juke step and comes back outside, swiping his hands down and chases down #8 Lamar Jackson in the pocket for the sack.
Once the Chargers drafted Joey Bosa out of Ohio State #3 overall in 2016, they started pairing up him and Ingram on the same side to “overload” the strong side of the rush, getting one of the two rushers an advantageous matchup one-on-one.
On this play against the Colts, we see Ingram line up inside and use the chop/rip move head up on the guard on strong side of the rush, winning with speed and pursuit to the QB in the pocket for the sack from up the middle, having Bosa also win his matchup against the RT and get in on the play as well. Should Butler be creative with his blitzing schemes on third-and-long, we could potentially see Ingram and Watt lineup on the same side of the ball, causing problems upfront for nearly any pass protection unit that has to contain them.
While Ingram has done a fair amount of damage on the inside, he is more than capable than winning on the edge. Earlier in his career Ingram was pretty explosive off of the edge, showing good burst around the edge. Here against the Cardinals a few years ago, we see Ingram’s burst on the edge with him hitting the chop/rip against #68 Jared Veldheer, showing good bend around the edge and finishing in the back of the passer for the sack.
Ingram also boasts a wicked spin move on the outside as a pass rusher reminiscent of former great Dwight Freeney who also spent two seasons with the Chargers during the beginning of Ingram’s career in the league. I would have to imagine since the two were teammates and have similar size and physical tools that Freeney personally coached up Ingram on how to execute the spin which he has successfully added to his pass rush repertoire. Here we see Ingram hit the spin on the outside against the LT, getting through his inside shoulder and manages to get through the block by the running back stepping up to pass protect in the gap and falls right into the lap of #4 Derek Carr for the sack in the backfield.
Here in the same game against Las Vegas, we see Ingram line up as the left outside linebacker on the opposite side of the LOS, using the two-hand swipe move inside, crossing the RT’s face as he shoots his hands outside being so concerned on the outside rush of Ingram that he easily counters inside and somehow maintains his balance and bend as the tackle attempts to push him out, finishing right into Carr for the impressive sack on the play.
Now this play is simply a treat that gets me salivating at the thought of Pittsburgh dialing up a jailbreak blitz on a third down situation. Here we see Ingram in the A-gap in a standup position with the nose in-between he and another off-ball linebacker walked up into the opposite A-gap.
On the snap of the football, we see Ingram loop around the NT and get a free lane to the the Broncos QB, accelerating to the ball and absolutely levels #13 Trevor Simeon to the turf on the nasty collision. Ingram ends up getting penalized for the hit on the play, but picturing having he and Vince Williams standing up in the A-gap with Tyson Alualu in the middle on a jailbreak blitz is a dream I want to see become a reality this season.
Much like Freeney or even former Steelers great James Harrison, Ingram has a strong lower half and a stocky frame that allows him to get low and bend well against taller blockers, being able to get them reaching down to try and get a hand on him as he either runs the arc or counters back to the opposite side, using their length against them.
We see the latter here on this spin/counter inside against the Colts and RG Mark Glowinski, shooting inside across his face and then proceeds to spin back to the outside, having Glowinski leave his feet as Ingram sits down showing good bend getting low to the ground where he finishes at #7 Jacoby Brissett for the big hit to force the incomplete pass.
We see the former mentioned above here against Mitchell Schwartz as Ingram runs the arc, dip/rip against Kansas City, using his superior leverage to get underneath the pass of the blocker kind of like Harrison did, showing good speed around the edge as he rounds the corner right into #15 Patrick Mahomes for the takedown on first down.
Overall, it’s pretty easy to recognize why Ingram has been considered a Pro-Bowl caliber player the past three seasons prior to his injury-riddled campaign in 2020 where he still was productive in the games played despite not notching a sack. Now, he needs to prove that he is healthy and that his age won’t vastly deteriorate his play heading into 2021.
However, given the fact that he signed with Pittsburgh upon arriving shows that the team is likely confident the medicals check out and that he can still produce at a high level, otherwise Colbert likely wouldn’t have signed him due to his age. He should fit in well playing 15-20 snaps a game behind Watt and Highsmith and even with them on the field on clear pass rush situations as a standup rusher inside, causing havoc along the LOS. There is no reason to expect that Ingram, if healthy, can’t provide a similar impact Freeney or Harrison provided in their twilight years in the league, producing 3-6 sacks with the room for more depending on how his role plays out in the Steelers’ defensive system.
Nonetheless, I personally am excited to see Ingram suit up in Black and Gold and start hunting opposing QBs in the AFC North.
What are your thoughts on the Melvin Ingram signing? Do you think he can provide a boost as a pass rusher for Pittsburgh? Do you think he is simply going to spell Watt and Highsmith on occasion, or that the defense will find ways to utilize all of them on the field at once? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!