NFL.com analytics expert Cynthia Frelund has listed the most underappreciated players in the league, and believes Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is not getting enough credit.
“In his rookie season, the third-rounder made a tackle on nearly 10 percent of his snaps (9.9 percent tackle rate),” Frelund writes. “This was the second-highest rate among edge defenders last season (min. 400 snaps).”
While Frelund does not believe Highsmith can keep that up in his expanded role following the departure of Bud Dupree, she does have high expectations for his sophomore season.
“The two main reasons for that: 1) In terms of his speed in the first 3 yards traveled, Highsmith ranked in the top 10 percent in 2020; and 2) his hips stayed facing the quarterback even after contact at a rate in the top 15 percent (this helps predict recovery and pursuit of pressure).”
Not only are the Steelers expecting Highsmith to make a leap from his rookie season, but they are also counting on him to capitalize on single matchups opposite T.J. Watt.
All signs point to Highsmith sliding into the starting lineup full time this season, but the Steelers did select former Miami edge rusher Quincy Roche in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Highsmith recorded 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.