Head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that the Steelers trading Melvin Ingram to Kansas City mid-season has greatly helped the Chiefs defense, ahead of the matchup between the clubs on Saturday, but added that what the trade would or would not do for Kansas City was not the Steelers’ primary motivating factor in moving on from Ingram.
The Steelers traded Ingram to Kansas City for a sixth-round draft pick leading up to the NFL trade deadline on Nov. 2.
The trade came after Ingram expressed his displeasure with what he perceived as a lack of playing time. That, according to Tomlin, was the Steelers’ primary factor in moving on from Ingram, and the fact that the Steelers will have to face him this Sunday was a non-factor.
“We didn’t weigh their circumstances, no,” he said Tuesday. “We weighed our circumstances. Not only the tangible element of our circumstances, but the intangible quality that makes up team. Like I mentioned when we moved him, we had the ability to get value for him, and so that was entertaining and interesting to us.
“But also, to be quite honest with you and blunt, Melvin no longer wanted to be here. And for us, we prefer volunteers as opposed to hostages and we believe that’s a formula that really allows us to come together in ways that you can’t measure. … That’s more of a function of us and the things that we value and less of a function of Kansas City, the things that they needed or the prospects of playing them later in the season.”
But the addition of Ingram has certainly helped the Chiefs, especially in letting Chris Jones play exclusively on the inside. Kansas City hasn’t lost since acquiring Ingram, who is still playing a rotational role. The KC defense has held five of its last six opponents to 14 points or fewer.
“They were lacking in some edge depth early in the season,” Tomlin explained. “[Jones] played outside. Was a dominant force outside. Has been a dominant force inside. I think one of the things that’s allowed them to get some traction from a defensive perspective is in recent months, they’ve been able to play him almost exclusively inside and you feel his dominance and presence, not only as a pass rusher, producing sacks, but with his ability to disrupt the overall offensive game, play the run, bat passes. He’s a catalyst. …
“They weren’t solid on the edge early in the year. Obviously, they didn’t have Melvin Ingram. … They were playing with younger, inexperienced guys and some backups. That component of the game has gotten solid.”
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ defense has backslid without Ingram. Their rushing yards per carry against has increased from 4.2 with Ingram to 5.5 yards per carry, and their continued inability to stop the run has been a significant issue down the stretch of the season.
Ingram would have also likely seen extensive playing time had he stayed in Pittsburgh, with both T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith missing time with injuries.