The addition of Melvin Ingram this week couldn’t have been more appropriate as the final high-profile transaction in advance of the opening of training camp today.
Like seemingly everything else associated with the Steelers entering this season, it reeks of uncertainty.
That’s not to imply Ingram can’t be the right guy in the right place at the right time.
But he arrives with no guarantees.
Not after playing in just seven games last season due to knee issues and failing to add to his career total of 49 sacks.
Not after nine NFL seasons and not three months past his 32nd birthday.
Ingram amassed those 49 sacks mostly on burst and flexibility, two characteristics of his game that may or may not still be there.
If anyone was certain they still were, the Steelers included, Ingram would have gotten a lot more than a one-year, $4-million, prove-it deal and he wouldn’t have been available on July 19.
The Steelers will need him to be a complement to Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt, a situational rusher, not a star.
But it’s as likely Ingram winds up on IR as it is he becomes a rotational LT.
Ingram joins a defense that’s still in the exploratory stage of replacing cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, two players who were far from great but also reliable more often than not.
Bringing Cam Sutton back solidifies the base defense, but what will the configurations be when five or six DBs are needed?
The Steelers have options but no established commodities at present.
They’ll also have an offensive line, presumably, comprised by five guys playing positions they didn’t play a season ago, and being coached by a guy who hasn’t been in charge of an NFL offensive line previously.
It’s not inconceivable this could work given the individual components and given Adrian Klemm’s NFL playing experience, his college coaching chops, and his demeanor and apparent sense of purpose.
But change of this magnitude up front isn’t something that’s tried often by design.
As for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the fear is he’s stayed at the party one year too long.
The issue isn’t his elbow, it’s his age.
Roethlisberger turned 39 on March 2.
Before that happened he referenced knee arthritis on two occasions last season.
And at mandatory veteran minicamp this spring Roethlisberger attributed the uncharacteristic inconsistency that plagued his game late last season to “feeling worn down.”
That’s usually what happens over the course of a campaign to aging quarterbacks not named Tom Brady.
Roethlisberger will probably always be able to throw a ball as few ever have.
And it’s a safe bet he’ll remain obsessively competitive well after his career ends.
But will he be able to throw at a competitive level in December and beyond?
Last December’s effort included some of the best football Roethlisberger has played (the 10-plus second-half minutes against Indianapolis) and perhaps his worst start as a professional (a loss to Ryan Finley and the Bengals).
Those games occurred in a span of six days.
In the playoffs against Cleveland, Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards. Yet it’s his inability to get back and recover Maurkice Pouncey’s bad-snap gaffe and the four interceptions Roethlisberger threw (especially the one that was air-mailed in the direction of Benny Snell that helped turn a 7-0 hole into a 14-0 creator) that resonate.
None of that suggests Big Ben is poised to go out like Jerome Bettis.
Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but FOXBet has established the regular-season win total at 8.5 for the upcoming 17-game regular season.
That’s a number that betrays an expectation of mediocrity much more than it does dominance.
And it hasn’t inched any higher due to the addition of Melvin Ingram.