2021 Stock Watch – OLB Alex Highsmith – Stock Up

Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.

Player: OLB Alex Highsmith

Stock Value: Up

Reasoning: The second-year outside linebacker is coming off what is certainly one of the best games of his young career, a distinction that goes beyond his sack production.

Alex Highsmith was held without a sack through the first five weeks of the 2021 season (though he missed one of those games). Sacks are the primary way that people tend to judge edge rushers, fairly or not, so from that perspective alone, it was encouraging to see him able to get home a couple of times on Sunday, finishing the game with a sack and a half.

But what he delivered all game went beyond sacks. Aside from the fact that he actually played every snap—which is significant, given that it seemed he started the season having his snaps managed due to a groin injury he had been dealing with—he was also a presence in the run game, and may have been their most consistent presence as a pass rusher.

He was credited with an impressive four hits on the quarterback, with Geno Smith having dropped back to pass 37 times in the game—five of those times resulting in being sacked. So Highsmith was able to put a hit on Smith on about 20 percent of his dropbacks when you combine his sacks and hits.

Not only that, he was strong against the run, recording four run stops, three of which gained no yardage or lost yardage. Obviously, there was a stretch there in the second half in which the team run defense as a whole was bad, but he certainly was not one of the primary culprits.

There is still as of yet untapped potential in this young man with only 10 career starts under his belt, and he should be as healthy as he’s going to be this season coming out fresh from the bye week after working through a groin injury through the first month and a half of the year. I personally am excited to see what kind of impact he’s going to have over the next few months.

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