CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora has tabbed Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith as the AFC North’s breakout candidate for the upcoming 2021 season.
While he doesn’t believe Highsmith will immediately be able to replace the production of new Titans pass rusher Bud Dupree, La Canfora does think he will make a major leap in year two.
“Is he going to completely replace Bud Dupree from a production standpoint? Maybe not,” La Canfora wrote. “Dupree blossomed into an elite pass rusher the past two season. But with the star power on this defense and with T.J. Watt on the other side, and with this staff and franchise that seems to always cultivate impact linebackers – and with a full and normal offseason and preseason – can he take major leaps forward? I wouldn’t bet against it.”
With uncertainty elsewhere in the Steelers’ front seven, La Canfora expects Highsmith step as a consistent player maker in his sophomore campaign.
“With guys like Robert Spillane and Devin Bush having to come back from serious injuries and Vince Williams cut and then re-signed on the cheap, the stage is set for Highsmith to make waves this summer and make plays this season,” he wrote. “I believe he can be the next real impact edge rusher in Pittsburgh, continuing the team’s distinguished lineage.”
Selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Charlotte, Highsmith posted 48 combined tackles, two sacks, five tackles-for-loss, six quarterback hits and an interception during his rookie campaign.
According to PFF, Highsmith recorded 22 total pressures on 224 pass-rushing snaps.