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Alex Highsmith Hoping His Pass Rush Repertoire Overcomes His Inexperience

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Alex Highsmith had a strong start to his NFL career this season.

The Steelers’ third-round rookie out of Charlotte, Highsmith spent the first 11 games of the 2020 season as a rotational backup and occasional sub-package player, averaging about 12.5 snaps per game.

With the Steelers starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffering an ACL injury, Highsmith was elevated into a starting role for Week 13’s matchup with Washington and played 60 snaps and was on the field 83% of the time the Pittsburgh defense was.

That will be the plan going forward for the rest of the year for Highsmith, which will allow him to utilize one of the tools that made him a highly touted prospect with Charlotte.

Highsmith has a variety of pass-rush moves at his disposal, particularly for a young NFL player, and the chance to face the same tackle over and over again, 60 or more times per game, gives him the ability to try to use that versatility to keep offensive linemen off guard.

“It’s easier to set up rushes, the more rushes that you have,” Highsmith said. “So it’s really kind of like a chess match. I’m playing with them. So just really at the beginning the game, you know, this past game, I was trying to set up different moves. That’s what I’m just gonna try to work as well this week. The more rushes I get, the the easier it is to set up different moves.”

Sunday night, Highsmith will be facing Buffalo left tackle Dion Dawkins. Dawkins also earned a starting job as a rookie back in 2017. Now in his fourth season, he’s an experienced pro with 55 starts under his belt compared to Highsmith’s one.

But the cat-and-mouse game of pass rusher vs. pass blocker is just as much about what you can do as it is what you know. Highsmith hopes that he’s able to use his variety of pass rushes to add to his one sack he’s already record this season.

“That’s just kind of the key for me, just playing chess with them and working different stuff in the beginning of the game to be able to set stuff up for later in the game.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette Makes Hall of Fame Case for Former Steelers Guard Alan Faneca

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As the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee met Tuesday, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette made the case for former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.

Bouchette listed Faneca’s career accomplishments, of which there are many, and compared him to others league-wide and at his positions with similar credentials, demonstrating how it is long past time the six-time All-Pro received the football’s highest honor.

Selected in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of LSU, Faneca spent the first decade of his career in Pittsburgh before closing with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

Faneca missed just two games over his 13-year career, was selected to nine-straight Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro six times. He was also named to the All-Decade team of the 2000s and won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Selector Bill Polian Makes Case for Former Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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With the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee meeting Tuesday to determine the next group legends to be enshrined, Hall of Famer and former general manager Bill Polian made the case for Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn.

In his presentation, Polian especially highlighted Nunn’s impact as a revolutionary in the scouting process targeting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Nunn’s vital scouting these underrepresented players and institutions proved vital in crafting the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.

“He was the authority, while working for the (Pittsburgh) Courier, on HBCU football. He might well have been termed the Scout-in-Chief of HBCU football,” Polian said. “Bill Nunn helped create one of the greatest teams of all time.”

A Pittsburgh native, Nunn attended Westinghouse high school and West Virginia State College before embarking on a journalism career with the Pittsburgh Courier. Eventually becoming the managing editor of the paper, Nunn gained notoriety for his black college All-American teams, highlighting relatively unknown players at HBCUs.

Nunn’s expertise translated to his career with the Steelers, where his scouting led the organization to draft a number of legends form HBCUs, including L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, John Stallworth and Donnie Shell.

Nunn would become the first Steelers nominated as a contributor if selected. Executives Art and Dan Rooney were inducted prior to the designation in 1964 and 2000, respectively.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Steelers

Steelers WR Chase Claypool Named to PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team

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Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has been named to the 2020 Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie team.

Claypool was honored along with Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson as the top 2020 rookies at the position. 

The Notre Dame product caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also rushed for a pair of scores, tying Louis Lipps for the most touchdowns scored by a Steelers rookie with 11 total.

Claypool was the 11th wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft when the Steelers took him with the 49th overall selection. 

Claypool previously won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the Steelers’ rookie of the year.

This is the second straight season the Steelers had a PFWA All-Rookie member, as linebacker Devin Bush was a part of the 2019 squad. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker T.J. Watt were awarded in 2017.

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