Alex Highsmith and his new wife Alyssa tied the knot on Saturday, a big step in the life of any young man, and another is an extremely important offseason for the Steelers outside linebacker.
Highsmith spent the first half of his rookie season learning behind Bud Dupree, before being thrust into a starting role when Dupree was lost for the rest of the season to an ACL injury. In 2021, the Steelers brought in Melvin Ingram to be a mentor and to take some of the load away from Highsmith. That didn’t work out, either, as Ingram grew disgruntled with a part-time role and demanded a trade, a demand the Steelers acquiesced to.
Through two seasons, Highsmith’s numbers have been fine. He had 48 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks in 2020. Last year, he had 74 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six sacks. But those are not the kind of numbers expected from the Steelers starting outside linebackers.
Dupree, lamented by many as a bust before his breakout season in 2019, had sack totals of 4, 4.5, 6 and 5.5 in his first four seasons. Highsmith was a third-round pick instead of being taken in the first round like Dupree, but those numbers are still below the expectation for the position.
Furthermore, Highsmith has struggled against the run and with tackling, areas that Dupree excelled in, even when he wasn’t putting up eye-popping stats.
There is no competition for playing time on the Steelers roster behind Highsmith, with veteran backups Genard Avery, Tuzar Skipper and Derrek Tuszka all seeming unlikely to meaningfully push the young Steelers starter.
So it’ll be up to Highsmith to fix some of his struggles in the run game and keep the right side of the Steelers defense anchored in 2022.
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10: Former Steelers CB Brian Allen will speak at media day before the 2022 USFL Championship Game, which will be held this Saturday in Canton, Ohio., TBD
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