The Pittsburgh Steelers possess an embarrassment of riches, at least from a pass rushing perspective. With two of the Top 50 players in the NFL paving the way, last year’s Steelers defense led the NFL in sacks with 56, setting a new franchise record for most consecutive seasons with 50+ sacks (four). This year, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and the rest of Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked defensive line unit have the opportunity to tie the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with 50 or more sacks (five), a record that was established in 1987.
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But in order to amass 50 or more sacks in 2021, the Steelers are going to need new contributors to replace the sacks produced by the likes of outside linebacker Bud Dupree (eight) and cornerback Mike Hilton (three), who signed with the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. Not to mention inside linebacker Vince Williams (three), who retired earlier this week after eight seasons with the organization.
That’s one reason Heyward and Watt are stoked about the addition of former Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Melvin Ingram III, who was signed to a one-year contract this past Monday.
Cam Heyward was characteristically succinct about expressing his enthusiasm for the move, tweeting out the following reaction on the first day of training camp.
T.J. Watt ‘Excited’ to Have Ingram Onboard
Meanwhile, T.J. Watt was more measured in his assessment, but no less excited. During a scrum with the media on Thursday, he said:
“I worked with [Ingram] during the Pro Bowl and I used to watch Chargers games when [my brother] Derek was playing in San Diego and Los Angeles. He’s just a player that has a lot of burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s got a phenomenal spin move and just seeing him in person, he is a colorful guy and I am excited to work with him.”
As for how he expects Ingram to be deployed, Watt said, “I’m no coach, I have no idea.”
But he loves the idea of adding proven talent at his position, saying, “you definitely can’t play a hundred percent of the snaps, so anytime you have depth in the rotation it’s always a plus.”
Melvin Ingram Has 49 Career Sacks
While T.J. Watt may not be a coach, he is no doubt correct in his assessment that Ingram will be part the team’s edge rusher rotation, one in which he figures to spell both Watt and second-year outside linebacker Anthony Highsmith. After all, Ingram is 32 years old and coming off a season in which he was twice placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Yet he still managed to produce 28 quarterback pressures in 362 defensive snaps in 2020, suggesting that he can still be a very effective pass rusher if he can stay healthy this season.
As for his career production, Ingram has been credited with 360 tackles (265 solo), with 49 sacks, 70 tackles for loss and 108 quarterback hits. He has also been responsible for three interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries, as well as 28 passes defensed.
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