The Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers played very good overall as unit during the recently completed preseason slate and that was even with starter outside linebacker T.J. Watt playing a single down. Leading the way at outside linebacker during the preseason was second-year player Alex Highsmith, who showed he’s more than ready to make a huge jump in 2021 after a very encouraging 2020 rookie season.
According to ESPN’s pass rush win-rate stats that were posted on Twitter Monday morning, Highsmith had the second-highest win rate among non-qualifiers from 2020.
Top 10 in pass rush win rate at edge *among non-qualifiers* in 2020.
(among those with 50-159 plays with a win/loss at edge and fewer than 50 at DT in 2020.)
A big reason why I'm high on Alex Highsmith as a breakout candidate pic.twitter.com/FfE8J2ksp2
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) August 30, 2021
Highsmith, as you can see in the rankings below, is listed ahead of some impressive players such as Chandler Jones and Jadeveon Clowney.
As a rookie in 2020, Highsmith, the Steelers third-round selection out of Charleston, posted a 12.4% pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions with 25 pressures overall that included 14 total quarterback hits.
During the recently concluded preseason, Highsmith was credited with a sack, a hit and a hurry in his 40 total pass rush attempts, according to Pro Football Focus stats.
While the Steelers did add veteran outside linebacker Melvin Ingram at the start of training camo, Highsmith is expected to be the player to start opposite Watt when the defense takes the field in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
Highsmith and Ingram were both held out of the Steelers Friday night preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.