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Chiefs’ Melvin Ingram has become locker room leader after leaving Steelers

As the veteran pass-rusher prepares to once again play his former team, Ingram continues to showcase leadership amongst his younger teammates.

NFL: DEC 26 Steelers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs lucked their way into acquiring veteran defensive end Terrell Suggs for the final stretch of what eventually became their Super Bowl-winning season. Now, the team’s hoping another in-season addition to the defensive line will help lead to a title.

In this case, the word “help” may be understating what edge rusher Melvin Ingram provides.

It is still hard to believe: Ingram was traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Chiefs for a sixth-round pick. Since his Kansas City debut in Week 9, he has been the clear starter opposite Frank Clark at defensive end — playing 123 more snaps than the third player in line. He’s racked up the team’s third-most pressures; he’s gotten two sacks, four other quarterback hits and forced the fumble that led to a game-changing touchdown last week.

The most incredible part is he can make the on-field impact he’s had while also being a wise veteran of the game. At age 32 and in his 10th season, Ingram has knowledge that is simply impossible for younger players to have — and that’s especially true here, where he’s the oldest player in the position group.

Head coach Andy Reid understands the value of that experience.

“He’s done a nice job for us,” said Reid. “He’s come here, and he’s added some good senior leadership to the defense, along with the other good leaders that we have. It’s worked out well for him, and we’re glad we have him.”

With a culture like the one that has been built in Kansas City, it feels like the player leadership had already been too established for any additional help — but Ingram’s natural ability to set an example has been appreciated by guys like quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“He’s definitely a leader,” Mahomes assured. “He’s a vet — he’s someone that understands how to play the game and play it the right way. He’s a mismatch out there. He’s just as good against the run as he is against the pass. He can play every single down; he can go out there and play with his presence and kind of bring everybody along. He’s been a great addition to the defensive line room.”

He was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Chiefs play this weekend to begin their postseason. When Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the situation during his call with Kansas City media on Wednesday, he laid out the same sentiment he had when asked about it before their Week 16 matchup.

The Chiefs also believe in “the intangible quality (of) team,” yet they acquired Ingram, which has turned out beyond their wildest dreams. It excites a player like tight end Travis Kelce because he knows the difficulty of going up against Ingram.

“My first eight years, I had to get him at least twice a year, but man I’m glad he’s on our team,” Kelce said with a smile during his press conference on Wednesday. “He has the entire package; I said it when he came here, whenever you add a juice man or just an ultimate competitor like him, it doesn’t matter what sport you put that guy in. He’s got a great feel for being a competitor, and especially playing with teammates. That’s why he fit the mold so perfectly when he got here — both his energy and who he is on the field as a playmaker. It was a perfect match.”

Kelce can only observe the defense from his sideline view — but just like every fan or observer of the game, he could see the difference that Ingram was making.

“The swag champ, man,” Kelce said, describing Ingram. “You bring a guy in with that much juice and that much swagger about himself, a perennial all-star throughout his entire career, that makes everybody play better. You saw it immediately, how much fun the guys were having. Not that we weren’t on that track to getting better — I do believe that, we had a lot of guys figuring it out offensively and defensively — and sure enough, when he came in, everybody started clicking even more.”

Unfortunately, things weren’t clicking for the defense in the final two games — allowing 58 points in total. But the Chiefs’ pass rush still dominated the Bengals’ pass protection, and the Denver game featured an unstable field to play on. It shouldn’t be an excuse, but with the postseason coming and a long shot at the one seed still, there might’ve been some relaxed efforts or business decisions.

Going into a playoff game — especially against his former team — it’s fair to say that Ingram will be fired up, and we’ve seen that energy spread to his teammates quickly.

As bad as many Chiefs players want to win another Super Bowl, Ingram’s never made it — and that hunger to win at this stage of his career could bring out the best we’ve seen of him yet.