As much as it might not seem that way on occasion in the way that they play, football players are nevertheless human. And pretty much all humans experience some discomfort when they’re uprooted. Helping somebody adjust to their new environment can help enable them to focus on the things in front of them that matter.
Case in point, still-new Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Malik Reed. He’s going to have to start the game today because of T.J. Watt’s injury. He’s only been here for a couple of weeks, but they’ve done a good job of making him feel at home and inviting him into their locker room—indeed, even into their houses, as Alex Highsmith did.
“It’s been good”, Reed said last week of his relationship with the third-year edge rusher. “When I first got here, he invited me and my wife to his house to welcome us in and if I had any questions to answer them and things like that, helped me get acclimated quickly, so it’s been good so far”.
Watt’s injury also places a greater burden on Highsmith, who will now be expected to be the top dog coming off the edge. He did have three sacks in the season opener, including a forced fumble, but the Steelers, including Reed, are going to have to support him, and having that personal relationship plays into that.
“Whenever the new guys come in, I just really like to welcome them into our environment”, Highsmith said of Reed. “Last weekend or whatever we had some people over to our house. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have him over, his wife and my wife as well. It was pretty cool. I just like building relationships with guys. I think that’s what of the reasons I’m here, just to be liked in my locker room and just be able to build a relationship with the guys”.
The Steelers just added another new face, rookie college free agent David Anenih, who is filling Watt’s spot on the 53-man roster. Indeed, Highsmith is the only outside linebacker currently on the 53 who was also on the offseason roster, as the other player at the position is Jamir Jones, whom they claimed off waivers after final cuts.
An easy way to bond, of course, is to share in the same experiences, which Highsmith and Reed (and the rest of them) do. Reed told reporters that he’d noticed Highsmith plenty when he was watching film of the Steelers, even if Watt is the star. “I knew he could do some great things. I was happy for him and I was amazed on the sideline being able to go out there and do his thing”.
Now they’ll be out there today looking to support one another, with some supplementary assistance from Jones and Anenih. Perhaps Highsmith will have to get them over to his house after Thursday’s game against the Browns, when they have a bit of a mini-bye.