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Tomlin Says Increased Playing Time for Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt Sustainable Long-Term

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With the Pittsburgh Steelers trading veteran outside linebacker Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday, their three-man rotation at outside linebacker has become a twosome.

It had actually already become that, with Highsmith and Watt dominating the repetitions at the position over the last two games, the second of which saw Ingram out with a groin injury.

Head coach Mike Tomlin gave a curt “yes” when asked on Tuesday if the recent workload of Highsmith and Watt is sustainable throughout the season. Highsmith has missed just five snaps of defense over the last two games.

Because of the NFL’s first 17-game season, many players are on pace to see career highs in snaps this year. Watt is an exception. After missing a game due to injury, he has played in 303 snaps, over his first six games, averaging just over 50 snaps per game. That puts him on pace to play in 758 snaps this season, down from 855 last year.

Highsmith, on the other hand, is seeing a huge increase is his reps from his rookie season, when he started as a backup behind Bud Dupree. Highsmith has also missed one game and played in 289 snaps so far, for a 48 play-per-game average. If he doesn’t miss another game, he’s on pace to play 768 defensive snaps this season after appearing in 437 in 2020.

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