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Steelers Vertex: How Melvin Ingram can improve an already great defense

The Steelers added much needed depth at the edge rusher position, but what exactly did thy get?

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Although we were in the midst of a series of the Steelers passing game based on direction, the Steelers signing edge rusher Melvin Ingram to a one-year deal is enough to make us pause the current series and address what the Steelers look to gain by adding Ingram into the mix.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.


The Stats Line:

Melvin Ingram IIII comes to the Steelers after nine seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. A first round-draft pick in 2012, Ingram has 49.0 career sacks, 14 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries one of which was for a touchdown, three interceptions, 28 passes defensed, and 360 tackles. Looking at Ingram‘s 2020 season, he only appeared in seven games due to injury and did not register a sack for the first time in his NFL career. Ingram did have an interception and two passes defensed with 10 tackles to his credit to go along with five quarterback hits.

Looking at the scores from Pro Football Focus, Ingram was the 27th ranked edge rusher out of 108 eligible players in 2020 with an overall score of 72.3. Ingram actually finished just behind Alex Highsmith who was 24th and had a score of 72.9 overall. For reference sake, Bud Dupree was ranked 75th in 2020 with a score of 60.2 overall. Dupree did have a better run defense score of 63.4 compared to Ingram’s 53.8 and Highsmith’s 59.6

Even though Ingram did not appear in many games, his play did not fall off significantly when he was on the field in 2020 according to PFF. Ingram‘s overall score in 2019 was 74.7 with had him also ranked 27th among edge rushers. His highest PFF score of his career was in 2017 with a score of 85.3 which ranked ninth out of 108 eligible players.

The other significant statistic that Ingram brings is three Pro Bowl selections from 2017 through 2019.

Another big factor with the Steelers signing Ingram to a one-year deal will be his salary for the season. At this time, Ingram‘s contract has not been reported.

So those are some of the stats when it comes to Melvin Ingram. As we know with these articles, numbers are one thing but the film doesn’t lie.


The Film Line:

While Melvin Ingram did not have a sack in 2020, he had 7 in 2019, when he was still a really good pass rusher.

2019, Melvin Ingram is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

Ingram drives through the block (not a good block, mind you) and turns the corner to record the sack. I like his first steps heading into the tackle before coming outside. The tackle respects his power enough to give Ingram the advantage when he heads outside. That respect is well earned.

2019, Melvin Ingram (#54) is lined up inside, right in front of #52 on the left side of the screen.

Despite being the size of an outside linebacker, Ingram frequently lined up inside and took on guards. Here Ingram has to move with the play, while keeping the tackle from driving him too far to his right. Ingram holds his positioning and helps shut down this run play.

Just because he didn’t have a sack in 2020 doesn’t mean Ingram lost the ability to rush the passer.

2020, Melvin Ingram (#54) is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Ingram sells the upfield rush, delivers a nice spin and reaches the quarterback in time to affect the throw. Ingram has power that lineman have to respect, and can play off of that with a variety of moves that he uses intelligently.

Ingram shows off his intelligence in the rest of his game as well.

2020, Melvin Ingram is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Ingram moved around a good bit, and would at times change positions pre-snap, often taking this stand up stance with a heavy slant. The receiver blocking Ingram is expected to take advantage of Ingram’s first steps inside to simply seal him out of the outside run lane. The problem here is, despite that strong inside lean, Ingram sees the play quick enough to win the initial contact and mirror the running back to stop this run.

2020, Melvin Ingram is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

This is fantastic. As he rushes, Ingram realizes a screen is coming. He locates the back and follows him, and is rewarded with an interception.

While watching Ingram’s play I was reminded frequently of James Harrison. Ingram doesn’t have James Harrison’s freakish strength and power, but his is respectable, and his ability to play off that power with counter moves makes him a dangerous rusher. Ingram adds to his rush ability with intelligence and a knack for making plays. When James Harrison returned from Cincinnati he wasn’t a DPOY candidate anymore, and he never reached 7 sacks again, but he was a solid edge rusher and still produced some big plays for the Steelers.

I think Melvin Ingram can fill that role at this point in his career, if he can be as good at 32 as James Harrison was at 37, he will be a valuable addition to the team.

The last thing I want to cover is the difference between 2019 and 2020 Melvin Ingram and his film from 2017.

2017 Melvin Ingram is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

There’s one significant difference, and it is Ingram’s explosiveness off the snap. In his best seasons, Melvin Ingram had power, technique, intelligence and he had top tier burst off the line. His burst off the line isn’t the same now, and it limits his effectiveness just like it limited James Harrison’s effectiveness when his first steps slowed down.


The Point:

Melvin Ingram has played on the left and the right, he can also line up inside or move around and be creative. He isn’t the same player he was at his peak, but his intelligence and technique make him a great mentor for Alex Highsmith, whose game is similar to Ingram’s. His power continues to be enough of a threat to make him an effective rusher in his own right as well, and that makes him a fantastic addition to the Steelers defense. If the Steelers limit Ingram’s snaps by being a rotational piece, the greater the chance Ingram can bring his best game whenever called upon.