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Ready Or Not, Steelers Alex Highsmith Is Now The Number 1 Edge Rusher In Pittsburgh

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

Ready Or Not, Steelers Alex Highsmith Is Now The Number 1 Edge Rusher In Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense was the star of the show on Sunday when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in overtime. They turned Joe Burrow over five times and generated seven sacks against an offensive line with four new starters that were playing together for the first time. Minkah Fitzpatrick had a pick-six and several huge hits, and before the injuries, T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward played like All-Pros.

Steelers Highsmith

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) Karl Roser/ Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers

The big news from Sunday was, of course, the injuries to Watt, Najee Harris and the offense struggling to put up 23 points. Lost in the narrative was Alex Highsmith’s performance. Highsmith was tabbed in July by Pro Football Focus as a potential secret superstar for the 2022 season. The former third-round pick delivered on that moniker with three of the seven sacks against the Bengals.

Steelers Highsmith

Credit: Abigail Dean / Pittsburgh Steelers

Highsmith will now be under a different kind of pressure with Watt missing from the defense for the foreseeable future. He was the perfect compliment on Sunday to the extra attention that Watt and Heyward commanded from the Bengals’ line. Teams will now turn their attention to stopping the former Charlotte 49ers product which Pittsburgh drafted in the third-round of the 2020 draft.

Steelers Reed

Malik Reed (50) Karl Roser/ Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers traded for Malik Reed and signed Jamir Jackson and they will now be called upon to approximate the production that the team expected from Highsmith. The pressure to approach the production of Watt will fall on Highsmith. He will now command the attention of offensive coordinators as the premiere edge rusher in Pittsburgh. He is not Watt, nobody is, but if he can deliver double-digit sacks he does not have to be.

Steelers Austin

Credit: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

Terryl Austin already displayed that he was going to be more aggressive this season because he has high trust in his nickel package when Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton and Levi Wallace are on the field to cover opposing teams’ receivers. Against the Bengals’ talented group, that faith was largely rewarded. The upcoming teams on the schedule are not as high-powered on offense and sending five to six rushers after the quarterback is a definite possibility to replace the pressure Watt generated on his own.

Steelers Defense As Dominant And Elite As Advertised In 1st Half Versus Bengals

The upcoming opponents are the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets who all struggled in the passing game during the opening weekend. The Steelers have a chance to artificially generate pressure by taking chances against all three of those teams. It will also give them a month to settle in before they face Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Brian Flores’ work with the linebackers is going to be under a microscope as he will be tasked with figuring out how to replace Watt.

The Steelers can not replace the reigning Defensive Player of The Year. He is a mutant with a high-powered motor and routinely wrecks games. They should not try, the talent on this defense is more than just Watt. They are the highest-paid defense in football and while they may not be elite without Watt, they will still be very good. Highsmith is a budding star, and the new depth pieces are massive upgrades over the production of Derrek Tuszka last season.

Steelers Tomlin

Credit: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Tomlin, Austin, and Flores all hang their hats on defensive production as coaches. The Steelers will need every ounce of creativity because the defense has to be great for the 2022 version of the black and gold to be competitive. They have three weeks to experiment and establish a tone for the rest of the season. Fitzpatrick and Heyward are elite, if Highsmith can elevate like he did yesterday, the Steelers can still have a special 2022 season.

What do you think Steeler Nation? Can the Steelers approximate T.J. Watt’s production with pieces? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

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I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Douglas Edinger

    September 14, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    I live in Corpus Christi, Texas (Cowboy/Texan country). Being from the Poconos, I have lived and breathed Black and Gold since I was 5 years old. I’m 73. Where I worked, I would see all Cowboys fans dressed in their getups on Saturday and on Sunday they’d wear nothing if the Cowboys lost shows how dedicated they are. If the offense can shore up the line and make more plays, like they did in the closing minutes of overtime, they should be alright. The defense is that good and can hold their own. Get the run moving.

    • Bob Quinn, Staff Writer

      September 14, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks for comment Doug. My Dad was marine in the 1970’s and we moved a lot, he and my brother loved Roger Staubach but I fell in love with the Black and Gold. I think they will surprise with how well they play, looking forward to seeing offense get on track.

  2. Pingback: Steelers Alex Highsmith Consistently Stellar Performance Frees Up His Fellow Defenders In Impressive Upset of Tampa Bay In Week 6 - SteelerNation.com

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