The Steelers pass rush is expected to be strong yet again in 2021. While T.J. Watt will anchor the strong pass rush along with Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers have to be excited about another player’s prospects of breaking out on the edge. Alex Highsmith’s rookie season was no joke. For the third-round pick out of Charlotte, he played impressively well in his limited action after Bud Dupree tore his ACL. According to ESPN’s pass rush win rate, Highsmith had the second-highest win rate among non-qualifiers.
Top 10 in pass rush win rate at edge *among non-qualifiers* in 2020.
(among those with 50-159 plays with a win/loss at edge and fewer than 50 at DT in 2020.)
A big reason why I'm high on Alex Highsmith as a breakout candidate pic.twitter.com/FfE8J2ksp2
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) August 30, 2021
Highsmith is above some impressive names such as Chandler Jones and Jadeveon Clowney on that list. He put a 12.4% pressure rate and 24 pressures overall according to Sports Info Solutions. Add in an impressive 14 QB Hits to that pressure total, and it was clear that Highsmith was a problem, even as he was learning to play the nuances of the position.
Now in his second season, Highsmith has been borderline unblockable when he has played in the preseason and training camp. He looks stronger and is a much stouter-run defender. With a power element now added to his arsenal as a pass rusher, it would be no surprise to see a second-year leap from Highsmith.