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Alex Highsmith, Steelers Confident In OLB Unit While TJ Watt Sits Out At Least 4 Games

Credit: Jordan Schofield/SteelerNation (JSKO_PHOTO Twitter)

Alex Highsmith, Steelers Confident In OLB Unit While TJ Watt Sits Out At Least 4 Games

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense will most certainly suffer while star outside linebacker T.J. Watt is sidelined with a pectoral injury. After initially suspected to be out for the rest of the season, Watt will miss at least four games but should be back shortly after that. The black and gold dodged a bullet, but the defense will still miss him.

Steelers linebacker Jamir Jones

Credit: Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (JSKO_PHOTO Twitter)

Now, there needs to be a few guys who step up in Watt’s absence. It must be a collective effort, as one guy simply can’t replace the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The only other two outside linebackers on the roster, aside from starter Alex Highsmith, are Malik Reed and Jamir Jones. Naturally, those two are expected to have expanded roles in Watt’s absence.

The team seems confident in those two, as head coach Mike Tomlin referred to them in his press conference earlier in the week. In a one-on-one interview with Steelers reporter Missi Matthews, Highsmith had this to say:

“We’ve got a lot of quality guys that are going to be able to step up while T.J. is not out there. Guys like Malik Reed, Jamir Jones, Delontae [Scott], I feel like we’ve got a bunch of really good guys that are going to be able to come in and provide some production for us,” Highsmith said. “Malik and Jamir have done a great job so far [since] coming in, learning the system and playing fast. They did really well on Sunday.”

The Steelers wouldn’t have been able to speak with this same kind of confidence in the team’s depth at OLB just a few weeks ago. Then, general manager Omar Khan made a trade with the Denver Broncos for Reed, which is already proving to be worth it. Reed has plenty of starting experience, so he is ready for this opportunity.

Steelers Delontae Scott

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Delontae Scott (50) during practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex preparing for a Week 16 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Pittsburgh, PA / Credit: Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

Jones was added to the team recently as well, as the team let go of Derrek Tuszka in a corresponding move. Highsmith mentioned Scott in his interview, who had some impressive moments at training camp in Latrobe. For now, he remains on the practice squad so we won’t see him in action this weekend. That could very well change in the near future though, as he did appear in one game for the black and gold last season.

After Watt was officially placed on IR, meaning he’ll miss a minimum of four games, the Steelers signed David Anenih this week. Anenih had three sacks in the preseason with the Tennessee Titans before the Steelers poached him off their PS. Ryan Anderson was also added to the team’s practice squad for some additional depth at OLB.

The Steelers have a crucial part of their schedule coming up. If they can steal some wins without Watt in the lineup, it will bode well for their playoff chances down the road. Here’s what the next four games look like:

  • Week 2: vs. New England Patriots
  • Week 3: at Cleveland Browns
  • Week 4: vs. New York Jets
  • Week 5: at Buffalo Bills
Steelers, Tomlin, Belichick

Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick (left) shakes hands with Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin (right) / Credit: Associated Press

What are your expectations for the OLB unit with Watt out? Who will step up the most in his absence? What will be the team’s record over this next month? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, as well as on our social media!

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Credit to my dad, I have been a lifelong Steelers fan. I have fond memories of watching the Steelers win two Super Bowls when I was a little kid. I have only been to 1 Steelers game in my life, which was in Kansas City. That was the notorious game where Antonio Brown pinned it against his chest down the sidelines for a touchdown. I hope to get to Heinz Field some day! I graduated from Iowa State University and look forward to growing as a writer with #SteelerNation!

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