Melvin Ingram

It’s no secret that Melvin Ingram and the Pittsburgh Steelers had a rocky relationship last season. Here’s why the team messed up in dealing with the Pro Bowl edge defender.

It’s become routine to see T.J. Watt honored over the past few years. The AFC Defensive Player of the Month award was one of his many accomplishments. Due to Watt’s absence, other players across the conference have stepped up their games. Melvin Ingram, a defensive end, was named the team’s best player in September.

Ingram is well-known to those who follow the Pittsburgh Steelers. When the team appeared to steal him in late July of 2021, right before training camps were to begin, fans went wild. Things began to go downhill early in the season, as is evident. Ingram eventually made it clear that he did not want to play for Pittsburgh any longer, and he pushed his way out the door just before the trade deadline.

Ingram’s angered many of his followers at the time. They had faith in the seasoned edge defender because he signed a deal. AFC Defensive Player of the Month awards for Ingram only serves to remind me how horribly the Steelers handled this issue.

Melvin Ingram

Melvin Ingram was, without a doubt, a solid player prior to his 2021 signing with the Steelers. Three times since 2017, Ingram has been selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the Chargers, and he has never been ranked lower than the 27th best player at his position by Pro Football Focus.

While Ingram’s statistics showed that he was still a valuable contributor to the Steelers’ offense at age 32, the team still elected not to use him. Ingram’s playing time was favorable at the beginning of the season, but after T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith returned to full health, Ingram’s defensive snaps plunged by 36% and 31%, respectively, according to Pro Football Reference.

When Ingram first joined the Steelers, he saw nearly twice as much action as he did in his final three games. Amazingly, while working part-time, he handled 18 pressures throughout that period.

If there’s one thing I could warn sports fans not to do, it would be to become compulsive “box score checkers.” Someone who makes judgments about a player’s performance based solely on his or her statistical output.

The numbers don’t show much of a contribution from Ingram during his time with the Steelers. His stats after six games were 10 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for a loss. Of course, there’s a lot more to consider when assessing a player than just this.

Although Ingram had several miscues, he had a very high win percentage when rushing the passer, and his rapid and consistent pressure on the quarterback during passing downs was a big reason why the defense was able to get off the field so often. According to PFF, Ingram was the fourteenth-best EDGE in the NFL in 2017. The film evidence supported his reputation as a capable run defender and pass rusher.

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Some supporters still maintained that Derrek Tuszka was the superior football player since his numbers were higher than Ingram’s, despite the overwhelming proof (the tape) to the contrary. Please don’t put yourself in harm’s way by following this line of reasoning; doing so could have terrible consequences. Indisputably, Ingram was the superior player.

When Watt and Highsmith recovered from their groin ailments early in the season, the Steelers should have distributed their playing time evenly among all three of these excellent edge defenders instead of forcing Ingram to take a backseat.

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keep these players as fresh as possible by switching them in and out of the lineup during each series. These days, a solid rotation of four or five outside defenders is used by most teams. However, Pittsburgh never has more than four active players on the field at once, and their starters play the great majority of snaps despite being exhausted (which we saw last year).

I realize this is all in the past at this point. There’s no point in worrying about it any longer, and we can’t change anything either. But I hope the Pittsburgh Steelers learn from this and change their approach to signing talented football players in the future.

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