The NFL trade deadline used to be much to do about nothing. Unlike other sports’ trade deadlines, the NFL’s deadline to deal players has always lacked the movement and excitement other leagues capture during their calendars.
Nonetheless, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves involved in this year’s trade deadline, but not receiving a player. Instead, they were shipping a player to another team. In this case, it was Melvin Ingram headed to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional 6th round draft pick.
The Steelers’ fan base has been concerned about their lack of depth at the outside linebacker position with the departure of Ingram, but the Steelers are prepared to let former first round pick Taco Charlton take over the reigns as the third outside linebacker on the depth chart.
During his weekly media session, defensive coordinator Keith Butler outline just how Taco has been doing and getting acclimated to the Steelers’ system since being signed to the team’s practice squad.
“He’s doing well. He’s still got some things to do in terms of the passing game.” Butler admitted. “What’s hard sometimes for our guys to understand is outside linebackers, and they are outside linebackers. They’ve got to do linebacker things, not defensive end things, all the time. They’ve got to get in coverage and understand coverage. There’s a little bit more to it than playing with your hand down all the time.”
That sounds great, but will the Steelers trust Charlton, or Derrek Tuszka, to spell Alex Highsmith or T.J. Watt when necessary? After all, asking a pass rusher to play 100% of the snaps is hardly ideal at any juncture of the season. Nonetheless, Butler won’t hesitate to put either pass rusher in when Watt and/or Highsmith need a break.
“Both him and Derrek [Tuszka], I don’t mind. We’ve got to rest those guys.” Butler said when speaking about resting Watt and Highsmith. “We don’t have a choice of doing that. And yeah, I think so. I feel just as comfortable putting them in as I did in Melvin. Sure.”
Throughout the past seven days, where Melvin Ingram stayed in Pittsburgh instead of traveling to Cleveland for the Week 8 game vs. the Browns with a groin injury, many are wondering if the trade was mutual. Or was it just Ingram wanting out? Butler gave his thoughts of the Ingram trade.
“That’s something he wanted, and that’s fine. We liked having him here. He was a good player for us and stuff like that. We wish him the best.” Butler said. “But he wanted to play over some other people. We feel like we’ve got the best two guys starting for us right now in T.J. [Watt]and Alex[Highsmith]. And felt it then too. We felt like he could come in and be a third guy for us, but I don’t know if we’d sit there and say he’s the second guy behind T.J. I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say that at all.”
Did Ingram really think he was the second best pass rusher on the team? Did he really feel he was better than Highsmith?
“I think all of us think we’re better than we are.” Butler said. “But we’ve got to suffer reality sometimes.”
It is worth noting how Charlton is a former first round pick, and it is worth asking if the Steelers might find themselves in the same situation as they did with Ingram, only with Charlton. Butler believes Charlton understands his role in the Steelers’ defense, and on the team.
“I think so. We want to have a rotation because that’s a tough position. Those guys are wrestling 300-pound guys all the time unless they get lucky enough to get a tight end every now and then. Those of you who have wrestled in this group know how tiring that gets. So, we’ve got to have some backup. And it can’t be that much of a letdown when we have somebody come in and play for those two guys.” Butler said.
Whether Charlton will be able to fill the shoes of Ingram has yet to be decided, but it isn’t as if those shoes are so large only the best players in the league can fill them. This isn’t filling T.J. Watt’s shoes, but a backup. If Charlton can register one sack he would match Ingram’s total for the six games he played in Pittsburgh.
Charlton will get his first shot of helping fans forget about Ingram, and usher in “Taco Time”.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 9.