The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t play a ton of starters during their Hall of Fame game debut on Thursday night, on either side of the ball. Many of those who did start, even are merely competing for starting jobs. One man who was out there, actually for quite a bit, however, was second-year Alex Highsmith, who is taking over for Bud Dupree at right outside linebacker.
The former third-round pick was one of the most dynamic players on the field for either team during the night, highlighted by a nifty sack off of a spin move to help stifle the Dallas Cowboys on their first possession once they cracked inside the red zone. But his play was solid throughout, and he also liked what he saw from the rest of the group.
“It was awesome seeing how well we played as a unit, just seeing the communication, seeing how fast we played, running to the ball, stuff like that”, he said in the locker room following the game. “It was an awesome sight to see, and I’m just excited to keep building, because we know the team that we can be, so we’re excited to show people that”.
Even more awesome is when we see guys like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Devin Bush, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick out there, but of course, none of those guys, excepting perhaps Bush, really need to see the field before the regular season begins.
It is worth noting that Heyward has had some qualms about the Steelers’ level of communication on defense thus far in training camp. That can also be a byproduct of shifting lineups throughout a training camp practice, which is less the case during a preseason game.
Overall, the team has done well in the past couple of years in cleaning up a lot of the communication errors that they have had in the past. It is and will always be a work in progress. It’s just something that must always be built upon in order to work the way it ought to.
And one very underrated layer of communication is inter-string cohesion, because the reality is that there will be times during the year that others must step in and play, so Tyson Alualu better know how to work with Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Joe Haden has to be on the same page with Arthur Maulet or Tre Norwood.
That is one of the hidden values of the preseason, perhaps, where you have a bit more mixing and matching in terms of who is in the game and when. The core starters do see the field the least, but they’re also the ones who are likely to have the strongest communication skills regardless of who is on the field—and are probably working with everyone on that during practice.