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Gerry Dulac: Steelers are sending three-headed monster after QBs this season

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

The Steelers believed they had the best outside linebacker tandem in the NFL the past two seasons with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Now they think they might have the best trio of outside edge rushers in the league.

And that's because of the addition of Melvin Ingram.

That was especially evident in Sunday's 23-16 road victory against the Buffalo Bills when Watt, Ingram and Alex Highsmith repeatedly rotated without any drop-off in performance.

Watt, of course, was his usual disruptive self, despite playing for the first time since the end of last season. But Ingram looked like the player who was a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Los Angeles Chargers. And Highsmith continued to do what he did in the preseason — show he is a player on the rise in just his second season.

"The three-man rotation we have with Alex and Melvin is something that's going to really be special," Watt said.

Three days after signing the largest contract ever given a Steelers player, Watt looked as though he was worth every penny against the Bills, playing 69 of the 85 defensive snaps (81%). He had two sacks, five quarterback hurries, drew three holding penalties and forced a fumble.

 

Ingram didn't have the same gaudy statistics — he had three quarterback pressures, one tackle for loss and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage — but he spent a lot of his 54 snaps time going after Bills quarterback Josh Allen from both sides of the line of scrimmage.

"We had something like that last year with Bud, Alex and T.J.," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "To replicate that with a guy like Melvin Ingram, we're pretty lucky. We don't take that for granted."

Ingram's sack production declined the past three seasons with the Chargers, mostly because of knee injuries. The Steelers are hoping that limiting his snaps will allow him to be more like the player he was from 2015-2017, when he had 29 sacks, even at age 32.

But he showed against the Bills that rotating him with Watt and Highsmith could give the Steelers the best trio of outside edge rushers in the league. Highsmith played 46 snaps against the Bills.

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