If you’re looking for someone who is willing to grade the play of second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith harshly, then you need look no further than his own bathroom mirror. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting right edge defender understands that he still has a lot of ground to make up to get to where he needs to be.
That goes for all phases of his game. “I can be better in both” the pass rush and the run defense, he told reporters on Wednesday, when he was asked if there was a particular area between the two major facets of the defense in which he felt he had to get better.
“No matter how I play, I can always be better. No matter if I get one sack, two sacks, no sacks, I know I can always play better”, he said. “That’s the mindset that I just want to continue to have. I’m a person that’s very critical of myself. I always have been. That’s what’s gotten me to where I am today. I know that I’m not fully happy with my performance right now, so I know that I can be better, and I know that I will be better”.
While Highsmith looked great during training camp, that hasn’t fully carried over into what we have seen from him on a consistent basis since the regular season began. Of course, one can only speculate as to how much that has been impacted by the groin injury that he suffered early on.
The second-year man was on the injury report for the opener, and was limited to only about half of the team’s snaps as he was being withheld due to that groin. His snaps were limited in Week 2 as well, ultimately re-aggravating the injury, causing him to miss the following week.
He had his best game a few weeks later in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks, a game that went to overtime. He recorded a season-high seven tackles in that one, including two tackles for loss, and also had a sack and a half on top of that, along with four quarterback hits.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t picked up coming out of the bye week where he left off. Neither of his past two games have been great, and he did have some errors in those. He acknowledged that he and the rest of the defense struggled to adjust to the Chicago Bears’ unexpected use of the Wildcat, for example.
Each week, however, is a learning experience, and Highsmith has a resilient character. He’s not the sort of person who would go into the tank if he was struggling. It would just motivate him that much more to continue improving. And to his credit, he has been improving.