There’s only so much that you can glean from an exhibition game, especially given the player who are not on the field—namely, the majority of starters on both sidelines—but there’s still value in what we do see on the field.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the biggest things that they are hoping to see before we get into the regular season is what Alex Highsmith is going to look inside of stadiums, heading into his second season, and presumably his first as a full-time starter.
He delivered on the team’s first defensive possession, recording a sack with a nifty spin move inside of the red zone to help stall that drive and force the Dallas Cowboys to settle for a field goal. It was a short drive that began with a fumble recovery going the other way.
A third-round pick out of Charlotte in 2020, Highsmith was drafted with the Steelers understanding that they would likely need somebody to start at right outside linebacker with Bud Dupree due to be an unrestricted free agent. He, of course, ended up signing a big contract with the Tennessee Titans.
Highsmith talked earlier this week about the extensive work that he put in this offseason in preparation for the opportunity that is in front of him, and that involved adding strength while retaining speed. I think we saw that in practice tonight, including an assist on a chasedown tackle for loss on Dallas’ second possession.
The Steelers did sign former Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram shortly before training camp began, which only added to the pressure that the second-year man was facing heading into this year, as though the significance of potentially entering a starting role wasn’t enough.
But he’s offered no indications that he has any interest of volunteering any of his snaps. Pittsburgh will have some sort of rotation, simply with the idea of keeping everybody on the field fresh, but Highsmith isn’t going to want to give up any snap that he should be taking.
Highsmith ended up playing the majority of the first half before being pulled in favor of Jamir Jones, the college free agent. Given that T.J. Watt and Melvin Ingram were not participating, though, it’s not surprising that he played most of the half, since there are not a ton of other bodies. It is notably that Jones beat Quincy Roche to the field, though.