Steelers Defensive Coordinator Takes Parting Shot at Melvin Ingram

Keith Butler

Nick Cammett/Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler looks on before a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2021.

On Tuesday November 2, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded edge rusher Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The trade came as no surprise, as the 32-year-old Ingram was rumored to be upset with his lack of playing time. Specifically, on November 1 Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network reported that Ingram believes “he’s better than Alex Highsmith,” and that he should have been starting over the former third-round pick.

Based on statements made by Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler on Thursday, it seems Kinkhabwala’s report was an accurate summation of the situation.

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Keith Butler: ‘All of Us Think We Are Better Than We Are’

“(Ingram) wanted to play (ahead of) some other people,” Butler told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, before going on to note that the organization never viewed him as a starter over Highsmith, 24, who was drafted by the Steelers (No. 102 overall in 2020) out of the University of Charlotte.

“We felt like (Ingram) could come in and be a third guy for us, but I don’t know if we would sit there and say he’s the second guy behind T.J. I wouldn’t say that,” said Butler.

“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he added, before further cutting Ingram down to size.

“I think all of us think we are better than we are. But we’ve got to suffer reality sometimes,” concluded Butler, who has been Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator since 2015, following a 12-year run as the team’s linebackers coach.

Never mind that both T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward were hyped that the Steelers signed Ingram in July, with Watt lauding his “phenomenal spin move” and “burst off the line of scrimmage.” The bottom line is that Ingram had one sack, two tackles for loss and six quarterback hits in 246 snaps, this as compared to Highsmith, who has 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits in 289 defensive snaps.

Regardless, the Steelers are now moving forward without Ingram, which means they are hoping to get above-the-line production from backups Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton, the latter a former first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys who has never come close to living up to expectations but has 11 career sacks in 45 games, only 12 of which were starts. Neither player has much of a track record in a Pittsburgh uniform, as they have appeared in only six Steelers games between them.

Now both will be counted on to spell Watt and Highsmith, and one or both could move to the forefront if either Watt or Highsmith miss significant time due to injury.

Pittsburgh Plays at Kansas City on December 26

Meanwhile, the Steelers will see Melvin Ingram again on the day after Christmas, as Pittsburgh is scheduled to visit Arrowhead Stadium in Week 16.

Ingram signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in July. The organization added him after losing outside linebackers Bud Dupree and Ola Adeniyi to the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

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