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Alex Highsmith, Steelers Definitely Ready for Week 1: “It’s About What We Do On Defense”

Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

Alex Highsmith, Steelers Definitely Ready for Week 1: “It’s About What We Do On Defense”

Pittsburgh Steelers football is finally back and Week 1 is about as big a matchup as any. With a defense that is locked and loaded to be one of the top units in the entire NFL, Steelers linebacker, Alex Highsmith says it will come down to the defense:

“This is a tough test for us, but I think it’s about what we do… can we execute the calls that we have at hand,” said Highsmith after practice on Wednesday.

Steelers Highsmith

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Alex Highsmith (#56) pre-snap against the Indianapolis Colts on December 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Steelers.com)

If Week 1’s outcome is anything like last year’s when they stole a win on the road against the Buffalo Bills, Steeler Nation will feel pretty good. Outside of last year’s Week 1 victory, Highsmith is focused on more than just one game; he’s fixated on making sure this season doesn’t replicate the early season struggles that last year saw.

“It’s going to be important for us to get out to a fast start.”

 

Repeating Last Year’s Gameplan?

Last season’s opener against the Bills saw something that the Steelers have rarely done in franchise history: limit their blitz packages. The defense only blitzed on one of 55 snaps while shockingly only recording three sacks, which seemed to throw quarterback, Josh Allen, off his game.

Perhaps Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff will use this same approach to see if they can limit the explosive plays from the Bengals.

Steelers’ Recent Struggles Against Cincinnati

It’s clear that the Cincinnati Bengals are a force to be reckoned with after being the bottom feeders of the AFC North for the past decade. Now, quarterback, Joe Burrow, and company are looking to solidify themselves as the favorites in the division for years to come, and ultimately swap roles with the Steelers.

The Steelers got their first taste of the revamped Bengals last year when the Bengals swept the season series in convincing fashion (24-10 and 41-10).

“They just kicked our a**, there’s really nothing about it,” said Defensive Coordinator, Teryl Austin during a press conference this week. “The nice thing about football is that you have another opportunity this year with a different team, so last year’s games mean nothing, it’s what we do this year,” he added.

Safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, also sounded off on what those losses mean to him and the rest of the defense.

“I think it was just not enough attacking, we didn’t start fast,” said Highsmith when asked about the lopsided losses against the Bengals last year.

Steelers Alex Highsmith TJ Watt

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Alex Highsmith (#56) reacts after intercepting a pass from Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, not visible, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

A Linebacking Corps that Will Look to Lead the Way

In the Steelers’ 3-4 set on defense, linebackers arguably become one of the most critical positions on the field. With T.J. Watt already a force on the outside, this could be Highsmith’s chance to break out and give the Steelers a lethal duo on the edge.

When the Steelers added Malik Reed to the roster in late August 2022, he received high praises from coaches and teammates, especially Highsmith who says he’s been great to be around:

“He’s [Reed] a really smart guy and he’s been in a system like ours and who’s been in this league and produced, so I feel like he’s going to be a guy who comes in and gets pressures and sacks,” said Highsmith.

Many eyes will be on third-year man, Devin Bush, as well. The former top 10 pick has not shown his worth over his NFL career outside of his rookie season. Granted, he did tear his ACL in 2020 which may have contributed to his underwhelming game performances since then.

Since the Steelers brought in Myles Jack, the two have created a solid relationship, according to Coach Tomlin:

“I thought those guys have done a really good job of establishing a rapport,” Tomlin said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Obviously, Myles Jack is a more veteran player, and it’s been cool to watch the nature of that big brother-little brother relationship,” Tomlin adds.

 

What are yinz going to be watching for during Sunday’s game? Do you think Highsmith will record a sack? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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