When watching the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this season, keep a close eye on Alex Highsmith pre-snap and post-snap.
You’ll notice rather quickly just how explosive his get-off is, allowing him to get upfield in a hurry to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Our very own Alex Kozora has talked about Highsmith’s quick get-off all summer long, but now the second-year pass rusher’s development in that area of his game is starting to be noticed by everyone around the Steelers, including defensive coordinator Keith Butler.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 15, 2021
Butler, asked about Highsmith’s lightning-quick get-off at the snap Thursday, said a lot of it is due to Highsmith’s preparation, studying the opponent’s cadences from the TV broadcasts, allowing him to understand what’s coming and time the snap.
“Yeah, snap count,” Butler said to reporters when asked what’s helped Highsmith develop that trait, according to the transcript. “A lot of times you can see what goes on in film; sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you’ve gotta hear it. For us, listening to these guys play on Monday night helped us a little bit in terms of what they’re saying. They’ve got a ton of checks anyway. They’re not gonna get too tied up in it. But the thing we’ve gotta do is make sure of how they’re handling the snap and people handle it different ways. Alex does a good job of studying that stuff.”
That shouldn’t come as a surprise with the young, budding star at linebacker. Coming out of Charlotte, Highsmith was praised as a guy who took his preparation seriously and was able to marry his obvious physical gifts with his ability to prepare, leading to the success he’s having as the new starting outside linebacker in Pittsburgh opposite All-Pro T.J. Watt.
The challenge with trying to time the snaps moving forward is that teams now know what Highsmith is doing, which could lead to some mistakes from the young pass rusher, like jumping offsides in a big spot, much like he did in Week 1 against the Bills, which Butler quickly pointed out.
As Mike Tomlin has said time and time again: you’d rather say woe than sick ’em, and right now Highsmith has the right mentality and is succeeding at a high level, giving offense tackles all that they can handle off the edge.
Highsmith added Wednesday that his get-off is a big part of his game.
“If you don’t have to get off, you’re not gonna really get to where you want and be able to challenge offensive lineman,” Highsmith told reporters via Steelers.com. “And so I think that’s something that was one of my focuses this offseason. Really just working on my get off and get faster in that. So this season throughout the preseason and last week and I feel like I showed improvement on that.”