When it comes to hard work and the true effort to try and perfect one’s craft, Pittsburgh Steelers’ star outside linebacker T.J. Watt essentially has a Ph.D in the art of pass rushing.
That’s why when Watt, a three-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, spoke so highly of teammate and second-year pass rusher Alex Highsmith Friday ahead of the Week 12 matchup on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, ears perked up instantly.
Watt was asked by reporters during his Friday media availability what kind of progress he’s seen in Highsmith in recent weeks. With Watt sitting out the Week 11 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, he had a great seat to watch Highsmith’s ascension, which included 1.5 sacks in the 41-37 loss and came on the heels of an 11-tackle performance in the 16-16 tie against the Detroit Lions in Week 10.
Seeing just how well Highsmith is playing in his first full season as a starter, Watt heaped praise onto the young outside linebacker, stating he believes the sky is the limit for the 2020 third-round draft pick out of Charlotte.
Yeah. He’s taken leaps and bounds,” Watt said to reporters Friday, according to video via Steelers.com “I think he continues to improve and I know he’s not satisfied when he’s the last guy off the field every day out here and is always studying film hard. The the sky’s the limit for him. And I’m excited to keep watching his progression. He eats up blocks. I think that’s one of those things is he eats up blocks for a lot of people, whether it’s inside linebackers, he takes the slides in pass protection, which allow guys to go single one-on-one match-ups against pass pro. And he’s just a guy that’s very selfless and is doing whatever possible to help the team.
“He can play any position up front and that’s why we love him, man. Gritty player.”
Highsmith’s stock is certainly rising as he continues to develop into a very good run defender and is starting to hit his stride as a pass rusher overall, including nail yet another picture-perfect spin move to beat Los Angeles right tackle Storm Norton and sack quarterback Justin Herbert on Sunday Night Football.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 24, 2021
It should come as no surprise that Watt likes what he’s seeing from the young pass rusher. Though the duo hasn’t quite reached the peak that Watt and former Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree once reached together as a duo, the current pairing is on the right trajectory overall, especially if Highsmith can continue to develop at a rapid pace, both against the run and the pass, giving the Steelers another formidable option opposite Watt for offenses to worry about.
The Steelers believed the sky was the limit for Highsmith when they chose him out of Charlotte, so it’s great to see his fellow teammates starting to see the same level of talent, work ethic and overall development in Year 2.