The Kansas City Chiefs looked lost early in the season, mainly because of their struggling defense. The front office struck a timely deal before the NFL trade deadline, bringing defensive end Melvin Ingram III to Kansas City. The 10-year veteran spent a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it didn’t pan out. Now with the 2-seed Chiefs, Ingram is right where he belongs.
Melvin Ingram’s presence has rejuvenated the Chiefs’ defense
The Kansas City Chiefs got off to a rough start to the season on both sides of the ball. Patrick Mahomes and the offense struggled to get into a rhythm, and the former MVP displayed questionable decision-making. Meanwhile, the defense couldn’t stop anyone.
General manager Brett Veach scoured the trade market to find a player who could help bolster the defense. Fortunately for Kansas City, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Melvin Ingram III available.
According to ESPN, the Steelers traded Ingram to the Chiefs in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.
A sixth-round pick for a 3-time Pro Bowler doesn’t sound like much, and that’s because it’s not. Kansas City received Ingram for a bargain, and it’s paid huge dividends.
The South Carolina product has been with the team since Week 9. He’s recorded 15 tackles, five quarterback hits, and one sack in nine games. Ingram’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he’s made an impact in ways the box score might not show.
The 32-year-old edge-rusher made a game-changing play in the season finale against the Denver Broncos. He forced a clutch fumble, leading to a Nick Bolton scoop and score.
Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has played significantly better since adding Ingram to the fold. It’s no surprise that Kansas City went on an eight-game winning streak toward the end of the season.
The 3-time Pro Bowler surprisingly didn’t work with the Steelers
After spending the first nine seasons of his career with the Chargers, Melvin Ingram III hit the free-agent market in 2021. The defensive end enjoyed a productive tenure with the Chargers. He recorded 360 tackles, 49 sacks, and 14 forced fumbles in San Diego/Los Angeles.
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Ingram to a one-year contract in the offseason. After losing Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh wanted to add a veteran edge defender to help bolster its defense. The former Charger certainly seemed to fit that mold.
Ingram appeared in six games with the Steelers, but he surprisingly only started one game. He registered just 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. The edge rusher was heavily involved early in the season, but his snap count started to decrease by Week 4.
Ingram became unhappy in Pittsburgh, and clearly the Steelers didn’t believe the relationship was worth salvaging. He was a feared pass-rusher playing alongside Joey Bosa with the Chargers. Pittsburgh is known for its physical defense, so it was surprising that Ingram didn’t work out.
Nonetheless, the trade appeared to be the best possible move for the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s city’s weakness is a strength heading into the playoffs
While Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense struggled in the first half of the season, the defensive woes were far more concerning.
Teams marched up and down the field on Kansas City. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense gave up 29 points per game to opposing offenses through the first seven games.
As soon as the Chiefs made the deal for Melvin Ingram III, something seemed to click. The defense enjoyed a drastic turnaround. Even though the box score doesn’t show it, the veteran has been a force for Kansas City. He brought a renewed energy that the unit lacked early on.
Ingram provided a much-needed spark, and the rest of the defense followed suit. Defensive leaders Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu elevated their play, spearheading an impressive resurgence.
The Chiefs were once a bottom-five defense. However, they finished the regular season with a top-10 unit. Melvin Ingram III wasn’t the end all be all, but it’s no coincidence that Kansas City started playing better when he arrived.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.