The Pittsburgh Steelers signed outside linebacker on one of the final days of the offseason before training camp began on Thursday.
But the decision wasn’t a rushed one. In fact, the Steelers have been scouting the 32-year-old Ingram since his days at South Carolina, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Thursday.
Tomlin said that Ingram was a player they identified as a collegiate that fits what the team looks for in an edge rusher.
“He’s one of those guys that fit the profile,” Tomlin said. “We studied him and got to know him through the draft process. Usually, those are the guys that we end up doubling back to and having an interest in when they are available in free agency. So it makes the process an easy one.”
Tomlin and his staff also got the opportunity to work with Ingram when the was on the AFC Pro Bowl team in 2017.
“We had him down in Orlando, and really got to know him some and in that setting, as well,” Tomlin said. “So, we felt really comfortable that he’s gonna be an easy fit as a man and as a player.”
Ingram was hampered by a pair of knee injuries in 2020, but the former first-round pick has been a very productive pass rusher, even into his 30s. He had seven sacks in 2018 and 2019 with the Chargers.
The next step for him will be picking up the system. Ingram’s time with the Chargers spanned several defensive schemes, but the last one was a 4-3 alignment that typically had him with his hand down as a defensive end, instead of the outside linebacker he’ll be asked to play in Pittsburgh.
It’s not a big adjustment, but Tomlin is hesitant to commit to a certain number of reps or percentage of snaps for his newest addition until he sees how quickly he picks things up.
“Right now we’re just teaching him and seeing how quickly he can learn, and that’s probably going to dictate reps,” Tomlin said. “What we don’t want to do is waste game reps on anyone. So his level of preparedness, his ability to execute detail, particularly the early stages of development, is going to determine how much he participates, or when he participates.”
T.J. Watt will start and play the lion’s share of the snaps at left outside linebacker, with Ingram and Alex Highsmith expected to share time in some proportion on the right side.