The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2020 season with questions all around the organization. Injuries decimated the defense, big-name free agents were leaving the team, and Ben Roethlisberger looked cooked. It was almost hard to remember the team started the year as the best team in the NFL at 11-0.
In the offseason, the Steelers rebuilt their offensive line, resigned Big Ben to a more team-friendly deal, and tried to add depth on defense. With camp now just days away, Pittsburgh continued on this last path by signing former Pro Bowler Marvin Ingram, the best pass rusher left in free agency.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lack depth at edge rusher
T.J. Watt is an NFL superstar. The edge rusher recorded 15.0 sacks in 2020 and came in second (to Aaron Donald) for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, his right-side counterpart, Bud Dupree, was having an impressive year with 8.0 sacks and 15 QB hits in his first 11 games.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they lost Dupree for the season in a Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The team lost him for good when he signed a 5-year, $82.5 million free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason.
After losing Dupree, Pittsburgh only managed five more sacks the entire season. Adding pass-rushing help in the offseason became a top priority in the Steel City.
The Steeler front office did this, adding some nice depth. The team signed nine-year veteran Cassius Marsh and drafted Quincy Roche from Miami in the sixth round. Those two join Watt and last year’s third-round pick, Alex Highsmith, as the Steelers’ primary pass-rushing options.
The Steelers signed pass rusher Melvin Ingram to a free-agent deal
Just over a week before camp officially starts for the black and gold, the Steelers pulled off a major coup. They inked the best pass rusher left on the free-agent market. Pittsburgh signed former Los Angeles Charger Melvin Ingram to a one-year, $4 million deal, per CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora. The Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins were also reportedly interested.
In Ingram, the Steelers get a proven pass rusher who should line up opposite Watt from day one. The former South Carolina star was the No. 18 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. He’s played in San Diego/Los Angeles for nine seasons and recorded 49.0 career sacks and 108 QB hits. The edge rusher made the Pro Bowl in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Ingram can play both left and right side positions. He can also line up as a stand-up outside linebacker and a hand-down defensive end. This will give the Steelers more versatility and, they hope, more production in 2021.
Best NFL defensive free agents left on the market
After the Steeler snagged Ingram, the pass-rushing options for any other team looking for someone on the edge are starting to get thin.
Former Indianapolis Colt Justin Houston (97.5 career sacks) and former Cleveland Brown Olivier Vernon (63.5 career sacks) lead the list of available rushers. After that, it starts to get thin quickly. Everson Griffen (80.5 career sacks), Adrian Clayborn (40.0 career sacks), Vic Beasley (37.5 career sacks), and Trent Murphy (26.0 career sacks) are next on the free-agent list.
There is still some good value left at the interior defensive line positions. Eight-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins is a free agent following a year marred by a shoulder injury. Five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey and two-time Pro Bowler Kawann Short are also on that list.
Outside of the D-line, several other big names are available. Although, it may be one less than expected after Richard Sherman’s recent legal trouble. Sherman’s former teammate K.J. Wright headlines this list of notable names that also includes safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston, corners Josh Norman and Prince Amukamara, and linebackers Kwon Alexander and Mychal Kendricks.
Teams like the Steelers who need help on the defensive side of the ball better act fast. These names will go fast once training camps start in earnest and players start getting injured.