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First Call: Encouraging stat about Steelers’ Melvin Ingram; Steven Nelson news; interesting Pens expansion predictions

If you are dubious about the Pittsburgh Steelers signing Melvin Ingram, Wednesday’s “First Call” may put you at ease.

We also look at Steven Nelson’s future. Strange odds surrounding which Penguin may get selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. And T.J. Watt’s wedding engagement is getting some buzz on TMZ.


Beyond the numbers

I’m sure some Steelers fans balked at the idea of spending $4 million on Melvin Ingram. The franchise inked the former Los Angeles Chargers pass rusher to a one-year contract on Monday.

Ingram has three Pro Bowls on his resume from 2017-19. He totaled 49 sacks in nine years with the Chargers. But he’s coming off a year in which he only played seven games thanks to a knee injury and didn’t record a sack.

That said, USA Today’s Doug Farrar found an interesting stat in Touchdown Wire that may allay some of those concerns in Pittsburgh.

In 2019, (Ingram) picked up seven sacks, four quarterback hits, 35 quarterback hurries, and 32 stops.

In last year’s injury-reduced campaign, on just 236 pass-rushing snaps, Ingram recorded no sacks, but he did put up six hits and 22 hurries — based on the tape, it could be argued that Ingram was a more effective down-down edge defender in 2020 than he was in 2019.

That last statement may be a bit of a leap. But the overall point about Ingram’s effectiveness without gathering any sacks is interesting. After all, with T.J. Watt on the other side, perhaps some of those hurries turn into sacks with Watt pushing the pocket from the left side of the defense.

Similarly, perhaps some of the pressures Ingram creates turn into sacks for Watt if he is flushing the quarterback toward Watt from the right side of the defense.

That yin-and-yang worked nicely for Watt and Bud Dupree as a combination the last two years. Perhaps Watt will find similar success with Ingram and Alex Highsmith this year.


Different kind of ring

Someday T.J. Watt would like to have a massive Super Bowl ring on his finger. He’s already taken care of that piece of jewelry for his fiancée.

According to TMZ, Watt spent $100,000 on his girlfriend’s engagement ring.

On July 8, Watt and Dani Rhodes announced their plans to be married. Rhodes is a soccer player who recently played for Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League.

One of the last items of offseason business for the Steelers is to presumably hammer out a long-term contract extension for Watt. Once that is done, paying off that ring will hardly be seen as a big deal.

Last month, Bleacher Report projected Watt’s new deal to be in the range of five years, $145 million with $105 million guaranteed.


Waiting game

It sounds like Steven Nelson is close to a new job.

The former Steelers cornerback was released from the roster in March. On Tuesday, Nelson left people assuming that he is on the verge of a new deal somewhere via a post on Twitter stating “Today or tomorrow stay tuned.”

But then, for some reason, he deactivated his Twitter account Tuesday night.

It wouldn’t be ridiculous to speculate about Nelson coming back to Pittsburgh. However, the Philadelphia Eagles have been a rumored destination for a few weeks.


No need to rub our noses in it

Since their inception in 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights have quickly developed a reputation as a perennial contender.

With an extremely entertaining — while also thoroughly obnoxious — Twitter account.

While the rest of the NHL is fretting over what players will be chosen in Wednesday night’s expansion draft for the new Seattle Kraken, the Golden Knights are not. That is because, as a new franchise itself, Vegas didn’t have to leave anyone exposed.

The Knights took to Twitter so they can gloat.

Totally on brand.


Wanna double check that?

Speaking of Vegas and the expansion draft, gambling odds are out for who the Kraken will select. The Penguins nominees are a surprise.

According to BetOnline.ag, defenseman Marcus Pettersson is the favorite at odds of 1/3. Then it’s winger Jason Zucker at 2/1 and Juuso Riikola at 6/1.

Penguins general manager Ron Hextall should be giddy at the thought of those outcomes. Pettersson and Zucker aren’t necessarily a surprise. Riikola would be. But I’d expect Seattle to choose either Zach Aston-Reese or Brandon Tanev. Those two wingers weren’t even mentioned.

ESPN’s Emily Kaplan had a prediction that was out of the norm as well, suggesting that backup goalie Casey DeSmith would be the one heading out west to join the new team.

The Kraken will make 30 total selections made up of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. That’s 26 players. So if the Kraken want to build up organizational depth in goal with extra picks at that position, DeSmith is a relatively inexpensive goalie ($1.25 million) that can bounce between the NHL and AHL with ease.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.



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