Mike Tomlin Called out After Ex-Steelers LB Wins Player of the Month Honors

Mike Tomlin

Dylan Buell/Getty Images Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts from the sideline on November 28, 2021.

On Thursday the NFL announced its Player of the Month awards for September, with former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III coming home with AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors. This season Ingram is playing for the 3-0 Miami Dolphins, but if things had played out differently last year, he might still be in Pittsburgh.

That explains why many Steelers observers are upset that head coach Mike Tomlin let Ingram get away, including Mark Madden of 105.9 the X in Pittsburgh .

“Tomlin mangled this. Badly,” said Madden.

Melvin Ingram Pushed the Steelers to Trade Him

Recall that the Steelers signed Ingram to a one-year contract in July 2021, with the expectation that the three-time Pro Bowler would provide depth behind starting outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. But the 10-year vet soon became convinced he was “better” than Highsmith and pushed for the Steelers to trade him.

In the end, that’s exactly what happened, as the Steelers traded Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round draft pick, leaving them to rely on backups Derrek Tuszka and former Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton, neither of whom is still with the Steelers. Tomlin later admitted that the Steelers traded Ingram because “Melvin no longer wanted to be here. And for us, we prefer volunteers as opposed to hostages.”

The brunt of Madden’s argument is that Tomlin didn’t need to alienate Ingram by relegating him to a reserve role. He could have been deemed the “starter” at right outside linebacker, with no risk as to losing Highsmith — a 2020 third-round pick who remains under contract through the 2023 season.

“If you’d played Ingram, you’d still have Highsmith. (T.J.) Watt is brittle. You need the equivalent of 3 starters,” argues Madden.

Indeed it would be a luxury to have both Highsmith and Ingram, and the Steelers could have afforded to bring back Ingram for another season.

Recall that Ingram decided not to return to Kansas City this year. Instead he inked a one-year, $5 million contract with the Dolphins, where he made his impact felt from the get-go.

“The Dolphins defense has been outstanding and much of the thanks goes to free-agent pickup Melvin Ingram. Ingram has totaled two sacks, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a pass defended and two fumble recoveries — including a fumble recovery for a score,” notes Grant Gordon, digital content editor for NFL.com.

Adding Insult to Injury: Melvin Ingram Beat out Alex Highsmith for AFC DPOM

It’s those stats that are yet another reason why Steelers fans are so upset. One can make a pretty good case that Alex Highsmith has been more impactful than Ingram during the first three weeks of the 2022 regular season. That’s because Highsmith has already recorded 20 tackles (14 solo), including 4.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble, as per Pro Football Reference.

But Highsmith’s efforts get discounted by the fact that the Steelers are off to a 1-2 start, while Ingram’s Dolphins remain undefeated, pending Thursday night’s tilt against the Cincinnati Bengals.