On the day that the Pittsburgh Steelers moved veteran outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, it’s no surprise that head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the man who is most likely to be tasked with replacing him. That would be yet another former first-round draft pick, Taco Charlton, who made his Steelers debut on Sunday, playing 10 snaps.
“He’s a talented guy. That’s why he was taken where he was taken in the draft. Shoot, I think he was taken before T.J. Watt”, Tomlin said of the 2017 28th-overall draft pick. “But he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s got an appetite for the rush component of play. He’s good with his hands against tight ends and tight-end-like people”.
There’s not a lot to go on in that small body of work, and I believe the bulk of his playing time came in passing sets, but nevertheless, Tomlin emphasized the former Cowboy’s willingness, even eagerness, to play the run, and how his college and NFL history lend itself to that.
“He’s an outside linebacker that’s spent some time as a defensive lineman in this league and in college. Those guys usually play with heavy hands”, he said, “and it makes them good in the run game. Very similar to Melvin Ingram in that way, and so there are a lot of things for us to be excited about in terms of what he might be able to contribute to us moving forward”.
Charlton was promoted to the 53-man roster earlier today with Ingram being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick, now occupying one of the two reserve spots at the position alongside Derrek Tuszka, vying for playing time behind Watt and second-year Alex Highsmith.
A 12-game starter in his career, Taco’s best season came in 2019 while he was with the Miami Dolphins, recording five sacks across about 400 snaps of playing time. He played a limited role with the Chiefs last year, logging 90 snaps, but recording two sacks and a handful of quarterback hits.
The Steelers originally signed Ingram, a 32-year-old former Pro Bowler, to a one-year, $4 million contract as they headed into training camp. He looked the part throughout, but evidently grew dissatisfied with his role, and asked to leave. That Pittsburgh was willing to oblige so readily suggests he may not have been going about it as professionally as possible.
And getting to see Charlton in-game was also a “huge component of it”, Tomlin said, of actually pulling the trigger and moving on from Ingram as their third edge defender. He is going to have to be the next man up behind Watt and Highsmith now, though, to be fair, prior to Ingram’s signing, we were looking at Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche, and/or Jamir Jones serving in that role.
That they stumbled into Charlton, who was waived by the Chiefs on August 23—and who now just gave up a sixth-round pick to get pass-rush help—is fortunate. Or at least that’s the theory. We’ll have to see him in action more first.