Though it’s far from the hottest rumor of the day, over the weekend, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said teams are calling the Pittsburgh Steelers over Melvin Ingram’s availability. Part of that stems from Ingram’s reduced, rotational role in Pittsburgh, playing behind starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. As Mike Tomlin pointed out, and it’s an obvious factor, Ingram’s snap count is tied to the health of the guys in front of him. When they’re available, Ingram’s snap count decreases.
“Reps changed based on player availability,” Tomlin told reporters during his weekly press conference. “T.J. has missed some time. Alex Highsmith has missed some time. The time that you just mentioned in reference to the question, both of those guys are back from injury. And so when you have everybody available, there’s going to be less snaps. It’s just football.”
Here’s how Ingram’s weekly snap count has looked this season.
Week 1 – 64%
Week 2 – 86%
Week 3 – 100%
Week 4 – 49%
Week 5 – 60%
Week 6 – 26%
A large range over the first six weeks and Ingram is coming off a season-low 26% of the defense’s snaps against Seattle, logging just 17 of them, thanks to Alex Highsmith never coming off the field in the victory. But as Tomlin noted, Ingram is the only one who has been healthy all season long. Highsmith and Watt have battled groin injuries that have caused them to miss games and snaps even when available, forcing the team to be mindful of their snap count.
Unless the Steelers get blown away by an offer, they won’t trade Ingram. He provides valuable depth on the team, already proven by the injuries at the position. And Pittsburgh has worked a 1-4-6 package with three OLBs on the field, a creative way to get pressure with Stephon Tuitt remaining out and Carlos Davis missing most of the season. That allows Ingram to get on the field in place of a more ineffective pass-rushing defensive linemen. Ingram is strong against the run, can play either LB spot, and brings a veteran presence to the locker room.
He’s not untouchable but it would take a lot for Pittsburgh, still competing in the AFC, to trade him away.