Even when the Pittsburgh Steelers do bring in a player of prominence via free agency or trade, it is almost always the case that it is somebody they scouted fairly significantly when they came out of college. Then again, that’s going to be true of most players who make it into the NFL, let alone those who actually stick around for a few years.
Melvin Ingram is a guy who’s been around for some time, but he is now in his first season outside of the Chargers organization. The Steelers picked him up shortly before the start of training camp on a one-year, $4 million contract, in large part to help ease the loss of Bud Dupree, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency.
His reputation, as a three-time Pro Bowler, naturally preceded him, and guys like Cameron Heyward will have already been familiar with his body of work, so it didn’t take long for him to fit in and be accepted as ‘one of the guys’, much like Joe Haden did after seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
“I’ve always looked at Melvin’s film”, Heyward told reporters earlier today, courtesy of 93.7 The Fan. “He’s able to be that rover type of guy where he’s able to penetrate through the B gap and get guards one-on-one. We will see what Coach Butz has cooked up for us”.
Ingram has spent the vast majority of his career as a starter, racking up 49 sacks in the process, but it’s currently undetermined exactly what his role will be. One possibility is to find ways to get him on the field alongside T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, their starting outside linebackers.
The Steelers did dabble with a three-outside linebacker package a year ago, partly as a response to the absence of slot defender Mike Hilton, getting then-rookie Highsmith on the field. They wanted a bigger-bodied, more aggressive presence on the field to accommodate for the loss of Hilton’s physicality.
Given that Hilton left in free agency, it may make them even more likely to pursue this course, even though they are testing out second-year safety Antoine Brooks Jr. to see if he can take over that Hilton-like role.
But the ability for a player like Ingram to move around is certainly a welcome one for defensive coordinator Keith Butler and head coach Mike Tomlin, whose fingerprints, of course, can be readily seen on the defense, perhaps more and more every year.
Ingram is a willing participant in stunts, based on his Chargers tape, so he shouldn’t have any difficulty fitting into the Steelers’ scheme. And they can figure the ways best to get him to a clear path to the quarterback. It’s all a matter of planning, to get your talent from Point A to Point B.