The Kansas City Chiefs Are Revitalized By Former Pittsburgh Steeler Melvin Ingram

One team’s trash is another team’s treasure.

After the Kansas City Chiefs acquired Melvin Ingram on Nov. 2 for just a sixth-round pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers — the team the Chiefs face during Sunday’s playoff game — the veteran edge rusher upgraded the their defense.

“You bring in a guy with that much juice and that much swagger,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said, “that makes everybody play better.”

The player, who Kelce calls the “swag champ,” made the game-changing play in Week 18 against the Denver Broncos.

As Denver led 21-20 and had the ball inside the Chiefs’ 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, Ingram hit running back Melvin Gordon behind the line of scrimmage to force a fumble, which Nick Bolton returned 86 yards for a touchdown.

Ingram is known as more of a pass rusher. But on the Broncos’ first play of the third quarter, he also dropped Gordon, his friend and former Los Angeles Chargers teammate, for a three-yard loss on another run play.

“He’s a mismatch out there,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “He’s just as good against the run as he is against the pass.”

Whether it’s a run or a pass play, Ingram will undoubtedly be pumped to face the Steelers team that traded him and labeled him a “hostage.” After all, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo lauded Ingram’s ferocity, saying how he plays “angry.”

“I love it,” Spagnuolo said. “He just knocks people around, and I think that’s contagious.”

Ingram’s play affected the rest of the Chiefs defense.

Since Ingram’s first game with the Chiefs on Nov. 7, Kansas City has won eight of nine games, and the defense went a stretch of five straight games allowing 14 or fewer points.

He was more extraneous on the Steelers, who lead the NFL with 55 sacks, but his presence on the Chiefs has allowed their best defensive player, Chris Jones, to move from defensive end to his more natural position at defensive tackle.

“Ingram fit right in there,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He’s very smart, and his attitude is phenomenal, and all the guys respect him.”

Ingram, who cited Eric Weddle, Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney as mentors, has impressed Spagnuolo as a veteran leader. The defensive coordinator noted that after team meetings on Saturday night, Ingram will sit with as many different teammates as possible.

“He’s really good with the young guys,” Spagnuolo said, “in the meeting rooms, around the building.”

The question is whether this veteran leader will be back next season. 

The Steelers signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract in the offseason and have paid the majority of his salary.

Ingram will turn 33 in April, but the cap-strapped Chiefs could use help at defensive end next year. Alex Okafor is a free agent after the season, and Frank Clark likely won’t return.

If the Chiefs release Clark after the season, there’s only a $12.9 million cap hit, and they could avoid paying him the more than $40 million left on his deal.

Ingram could also follow the lead of fellow Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs, who the Chiefs similarly acquired late in their Super Bowl-winning season in 2019. The then-37-year-old pass rusher retired after winning a ring with the Chiefs.

Suggs played in two regular-season and three playoff games for the Chiefs, recording one sack. Ingram also has just one sack but has played a more significant role, starting six of his nine games with Kansas City.

Whatever Ingram’s future is, he’s been an asset in the present.

“It’s worked out well for him,” Reid said. “And we’re glad we have him.”