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Alex Highsmith: Defense ‘Without A Doubt’ Will Be Among Top Defenses If They Stay Together, Stay Healthy

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season did not go as planned, nor as expected, at least in some ways. Certainly, there was a reasonable expectation that the defense would be better than it was, with the run defense absolutely cratering into a national embarrassment by the middle of the year and remaining that way very nearly weekly through to the end.

Yet confidence remains high in the locker room for what this group is capable of—as long as they all come back, and are healthy. I don’t think I need to remind any of our faithful readers of the fact that Stephon Tuitt missed the entire season, and Tyson Alualu very nearly all of it, as well. Add in those two players, and how much does this season change?

Then you have players like Alex Highsmith continuing to grow, and perhaps the opportunity to see greater contributions from in-season pickups like Ahkello Witherspoon and Montravius Adams, both of whom seem interested in staying in Pittsburgh. So do they have what it takes with this group to still be a strong defensive unit?

Without a doubt”, said Highsmith, the second-year outside linebacker who entered a starting role this season. “I think we’ve got the Defensive Player of the Year himself in T.J. Watt, and Cam [Heyward] and Minkah [Fitzpatrick] and plenty of other guys as well. I think we’ve got a strong unit going into the next season, if we stay together, stay healthy”.

Both Watt and Heyward were named first-team All-Pros, though Fitzpatrick was left out of the accolades this time around after making it each of the past two seasons. He had a quieter season in terms of splash plays, but those who dig deeper realize how important he was this season.

“I think we’ll be one of the best defenses in the league next year, so I can’t wait for that”, Highsmith added. “I’m really looking forward to it. But I know we had a good gameplan last night. It’s just we weren’t able to finish it, so that’s gonna be big for us next year, is being able to finish those games”.

He was referring of course to Sunday’s embarrassment against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game that just got completely out of hand about midway through the second quarter. Up to that point, the defense was actually playing excellent and making splash plays, intercepting Patrick Mahomes once and recovering a fortuitous fumble for a touchdown.

That, as you’ll recall, is when all hell broke loose. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their next six drives, and that was all she wrote. That’s a nasty taste to leave in your mouth for certain, being unable to respond to such a humiliation for so many months.

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