ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Before the game, Alex Highsmith had a significant question to answer. Could he show up without T.J. Watt and win consistently? If Mondayi s any indication, the answer would be yes, he can.
One of the positives I come out of this game with is that Alex Highsmith has taken his game to the next level. Last year, Highsmith had some sack production with Watt out, but in this game, he was all over Josh Allen and largely won his individual matchup against Dion Dawkins. He is better than he was last year in the pass rush department, and he has leveled up his game to become a true force for teams to worry about.
Pittsburgh moved Highsmith around and even got him to win against chips. That’s a testament to where Highsmith has taken his game from this point on. The bag is deeper, and tackles can no longer overset to the outside and just expect a spin move. Highsmith has multiple moves to win at any point in the rush, and his bend has always been magnificent when getting around the arc.
Highsmith’s speed-to-power evolution over the last two years is complete. Coming into this game, I was most interested to see if Highsmith could become that Batman when he was no longer asked to be T.J. Watt’s Robin. I think he did so on Monday. It’s a good sign for the Steelers, who have a top-tier edge-rushing duo. And in 2024, Highsmith should see a lot of positive sack regression coming his way after an impressive 2023 that showed clear improvement on tape.
He has less sacks, but his pressure rate is up, and in general, his tape is better. The bag for Highsmith has expanded dramatically as he has added more counters and polished up the moves he already had in his bag. But it can be tough for a pass rusher when the sacks are not coming out directly. So, Highsmith has made his presence felt even in coverage. But the Steelers are not concerned with only seven sacks on the sheet in 2023.