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: As a consequence of the Steelers trading Melvin Ingram, it clearly and unambiguously establishes Alex Highsmith as the full-time, unquestioned starting right outside linebacker.
Not that there really needed to be much of any confirmation, but with veteran Melvin Ingram now out of the picture—by his own request—there is now no question, no doubt, no ambiguity, and no room to speculate alternatives to the fact that Alex Highsmith is the Steelers’ right outside linebacker.
He has had that role since the start of the season, of course, but Ingram was also playing a lot. The latter actually played more snaps through the first six games than had Highsmith, who did also miss time with a groin injury.
We know now that Ingram certainly held expectations of his own that he would establish himself as the starter at the right outside linebacker position. He didn’t directly say it, but he said that his time with the Steelers was different than he expected, and would simply keep repeating that when he was asked to elaborate.
Now he’s on a Kansas City Chiefs team that already has Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and Alex Okafor competing for playing time. I’m really not quite sure he is going to be getting any more playing time than he could have expected to be getting with the Steelers.
But Taco Charlton is not going to command the same amount of playing time that Ingram would have as the number three. Highsmith is going to play close to full snaps. He’s logged 119 snaps over just the past two games, after averaging a little more than 40 per game in his first six contests.
Honestly, Sunday was not his best game, either. But he played really well against the Seattle Seahawks before the bye, and not just because he finished that out with a sack and a half. It was perhaps the most complete game he’s had yet, and he should start building on that as we move forward.