Melvin Ingram had multiple enticing options before deciding to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
The three-time Pro Bowler visited with the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins -- who feature a young, promising roster -- before ultimately finding a home in the Steel City.
So what was the deciding factor?
“I just felt like the program, the coaches, the team, everybody, it was just a place that I felt like was a place I could call home, a place I could come in and fit in,” Ingram told reporters during training camp last week via Steelers.com. “Like everything is amazing here down to the coaches, the players, the city, just how they do everything and they welcomed me with open arms.”
Several of Ingram's new teammates are just as excited to have him in the fold.
Star pass rusher T.J. Watt said he worked with Ingram during the Pro Bowl and watched the linebacker's games when Ingram was a teammate with T.J.'s brother and current Steelers fullback Derek Watt during four seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.
“I am excited,” Watt told reporters via BehindTheSteelCurtain.com. “I worked with him during the Pro Bowl and I used to watch Chargers games when Derek was playing in San Diego and Los Angeles. He’s just a player that has a lot of burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s got a phenomenal spin move and just seeing him in person, he is a colorful guy and I am excited to work with him.”
Second-year linebacker Alex Highsmith, who started at outside linebacker in the Steelers' final five games, is also excited to play alongside Ingram in 2021.
“It was awesome,” Highsmith said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So far, Melvin has been great for us here. He’s been a guy I’ve been able to ask questions and to learn from. He’s a veteran, Pro Bowl guy. All of us were excited when we brought him in.”
Ingram signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in an effort to "beef up the edge," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Monday (July 19), just prior to the team beginning training camp this week.
The 32-year-old enters his 10th NFL season with 360 tackles, 49.0 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, three interceptions and one defensive touchdown.
Ingram joins a Steelers pass rush that is expected to be the best in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Given that the Steelers use a 3-4 defense, outside linebackers Watt and Highsmith were both included as members of the "defensive line."
In April, head coach Mike Tomlin not only confirmed that Highsmith will continue to serve as the Steelers' starting outside linebacker amid Bud Dupree's decision to sign with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent this offseason, but also credited his "natural maturation" during a pre-draft press conference alongside general manager Kevin Colbert.
"In regards to the loss of Bud and the expectations and the depth and things at that position, the lynchpin to that entire discussion is the natural maturation of Alex Highsmith from Year 1 to Year 2,” Tomlin said. “You know the standard of expectations that we have for our young players moving from [Year] 1 to [Year] 2. He could be the poster boy for that. We need a significant rise in terms of all areas of play from him. But I also think it’s reasonable to expect it given what he’s been exposed to, given the quality young man that he is and his work ethic and the environment we intend to put him in. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to rise up and meet the challenges.”
Highsmith appeared in all 16 games during his rookie season, recording 48 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, five tackle for loss and six QB hits in 2020.
Watt is coming off yet another dominant season in which he was a finalist for the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award won by Pittsburgh native and former University of Pitt standout Aaron Donald.
Watt earned a 91.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus after leading the NFL in sacks (15) and tackles for loss (26), while also recording 53 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles and 41 QB hits.