Steelers should have signed Kerrigan over Ingram during 2021

The Steelers signing of Melvin Ingram is being widely praised, but the move pales in comparison to another veteran edge rusher’s contract.

The Steelers inked Melvin Ingram to a contract on Monday. While the team had a desperate need at edge rusher, the deal itself is a bit puzzling. Ingram got a contract for $4 million dollars per year – a good-sized deal for a veteran at this point in his career. While Alex Highsmith should still be a factor on defense, there is a real chance the team expects the veteran to be a pseudo-starter.

While most are praising the deal as it greatly strengthens this teams’ depth at pass rusher, I find myself a bit more skeptical. Sure, Ingram is a fine player, but at his cost and what he provides at this point in his career, the Steelers could have done better. To be more specific, they had a better deal with a similar style of veteran edge help slip through their fingers earlier in the offseason.

The Steelers should have signed Kerrigan

Simply put, if the Steelers were going to target a veteran edge presence, they had three choices: Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan, or Justin Houston. The most expensive, and the one the team seemingly showed the least amount of interest in, was Houston. That’s likely because he is the most accomplished option and would have demanded the most playing time, the point where he may have been listed as the traditional starter.

Kerrigan, on the other hand, signed for a deal worth 1.5 million less than Ingram despite being a similar player at this point in their careers. Both are in their early 30s (Kerrigan is just under a year older) and both are seeing regression slowly set in. The difference between the two comes down to two key points: health and expectations.

In terms of health, neither have been the prototypical “injury-prone” veteran. That said, Kerrigan has been the far healthier option of the two. During his 10 seasons in Washington, he only missed four games due to injuries. While his body could wear down, he has a far better track record of health than Ingram. On the flip side, Ingram has missed a combined 12 games over the past two years, including missing nine games just last year. The older you get, the harder it is to stay healthy, so one would have to think Kerrigan has the better odds of staying for a whole season.

As for expectations, Ingram was still considered a traditional starter last year with the Chargers, which was evident by his 70-90 percent of the defensive snaps he played when healthy. Compare that to Kerrigan, who has slowly seen his playtime decrease due to Washington’s focus on the defensive line in the draft. Kerrigan only played 38 percent of Washington’s total defensive snaps, indicating he has mostly transitioned to a backup role.

As well, and arguably as important, Kerrigan was willing to get more involved on special teams despite his age. He played on 22 percent of Washington’s special team’s snaps, the highest number he has ever recorded there. Ingram, on the other hand, played just one percent in 2020. While that number will likely grow, he may use his veteran status to get out of taking special teams snaps when he can.

When you consider that both Kerrigan and Ingram are similar players at this point in their career, Kerrigan has more of a special team’s ability, and he came in on a cheaper deal, there is no question who would have made more sense for the Steelers. The Ingram signing was fine, but he got more money than he deserved and there were better options at other points in the season. Kerrigan is the prime example, as he would have been a far better fit considering what the team usually demands of their third linebacker.