“Now, the question is, what do the Steelers do for depth at outside linebacker?”
I’m not even going to dignify that tweet by linking it on here or saying who exactly it was from, but it came from a Steelers fan just moments after it was reported that the team had traded veteran outside linebacker, Melvin Ingram, to the Chiefs for a sixth-round draft pick on Tuesday.
If that tweet looks familiar to you, it’s because you likely saw it all throughout the 2021 offseason, as fan after fan expressed his or her concern over Pittsburgh’s lack of depth at the position (and several others). After months of asking that same question over and over again, the answer finally became Ingram when the Steelers inked him to a one-year deal in July.
A 2012 first-round pick of the Chargers who came to Pittsburgh with 49-career sacks, Ingram, 32, seemed like the perfect insurance policy at outside linebacker. In fact, Ingram’s policy appeared to pay off right away when he factored heavily into the rotation in Week 1 and spent the entire game terrorizing the Bills’ offensive linemen and quarterback Josh Allen.
Ingram started one game and was in on 62 percent of the defensive snaps over his first six weeks. Not bad for a backup. As far as reserves went, Ingram certainly had to be having a much better time than some former Steelers depth pieces with impressive resumes, including running back LeGarrette Blount and linebacker James Harrison...right?
I guess not, as word began to surface that Ingram wanted to be traded for lack of playing time.
Lack of playing time? How could Ingram have possibly been unhappy with his playing time? Simple: He thought he should have been starting in place of Alex Highsmith, the team’s 2020 third-round pick and the future at outside linebacker, opposite T.J. Watt. That’s the only possible explanation that makes sense. You might not think so, but I remember when the Steelers were searching for a veteran backup quarterback in the summer of 2008 after Charlie Batch broke his collarbone in the preseason and would go on to miss the entire year. Pittsburgh ultimately settled on Byron Leftwich, but veteran Daunte Culpepper was initially in the mix. According to reports, however, Culpepper was taken off the list because he would only sign with the Steelers if he had a chance to compete with Ben Roethlisberger for the starting spot.
Talk about a pair of you know whats. Roethlisberger had not only won a Super Bowl by the time the ‘08 season rolled around, but he had also established himself as one of the best, young passers in the NFL.
How could Culpepper have possibly thought he’d have a chance to win the starting quarterback job in Pittsburgh? Ego, that’s how.
They say the legs are the first things to go on most athletes, but their ego might be the last.
Despite what he said about his role throughout the 2021 training camp and preseason, Ingram obviously wasn’t about to be satisfied with being the backup. Much like a person who pretends to be okay with things after a crush tells them they just want to be friends, Ingram thought he could come here and show the Steelers that he was the best outside linebacker for them not named Watt. He thought he could play the long game. He assumed he could wine and dine them and force them to consider an older man over the young stud they had already committed to.
Ingram should have been upfront about his feelings, his intentions. If he didn’t want to be the backup, he shouldn’t have signed with a team that was only looking for that. He shouldn’t have taken the money, money that I’m sure he eagerly spent while he was lamenting his relationship with the Steelers.
So, where do the Steelers go from here? How do they address their depth? You know what I say? Who gives a darn!
Why do I say that? If I haven’t made it crystal clear by now, older, quality depth is often a delusional pain in the butt. This is why you can’t really have quality depth at most positions unless it’s young depth that doesn’t mind biding its time.
Old depth doesn’t have that kind of time. Old depth still has an ego that must be catered to and isn’t afraid to walk off the field before a game is over or defiantly sleep in meetings.
Finally, remember how annoying old depth is next offseason when you’re hounding every writer and podcaster about why the Steelers aren’t signing any of it.
This might get me into trouble, but I’ll take young and inexperienced depth over old depth any day of the week
Who needs the drama and the delusion?