Alex Highsmith had a career day today against the Cincinnati Bengals, with nine tackles, three sacks, two tackles for a loss, and four quarterback hits. Defensive lineman Cam Heyward took notice and praise Highsmith for his performance today and his ability to get ready after missing time during training camp and the preseason.
“He’s been out, but at the same time he’s conditioned himself for it. We asked a lot out of everybody on defense, but you know, I thought Alex day-in and day-out, he was always conditioned and trying to stay on top of it. Taking scout team reps, you name it. It’s a testament to him just being ready for the moment, and what a way to start off with three sacks,” Heyward said via a video posted the team’s YouTube channel.
Highsmith looked great working against Jonah Williams, and he really made his presence felt, especially in the first half. He briefly exited the game with an arm injury but later returned. Obviously, Highsmith’s role on this team is going to be a lot more important with the news that T.J. Watt is believed to have torn his pec, an injury that will likely sideline him for the season.
Now in his third year in the league, this was the year where Highsmith was primed to breakout. He said himself how his goal was to get 10 sacks this season after registering six last season, and he’s well on his way with three in Week 1. As Heyward said, his performance today is a testament to him doing whatever it took to get ready after missing a significant chunk of time before the season started. The fact that Highsmith was able to ready himself to play as well as he did today says a lot about his work ethic, and hopefully, that will show on the field going forward.
Highsmith said it was important for the defense to get out to a fast start.
“It was so important. The past few times we came in here we did not, and the scoreboard reflected that. Today
we got off to a fast start, and we got the W. I hope it’s not just this game and every game that we get off to a fast start,” he said via official transcript provided by the team.
Getting off to that fast start and being able to rush the passer as well as Highsmith despite not having a ton of game experience is impressive, and hopefully, it’s a trend that Pittsburgh takes with them throughout the course of the season.
The Steelers are really going to need a good season out of Highsmith, and if his Week 1 performance is any indication, they’ll get one. Still, he needs to be able to show he can keep up his high-level performance throughout the course of 17 games. However, Heyward is clearly high on his work ethic and ability to get himself ready, and if someone with the leadership of Heyward believes in Highsmith, there’s no reason the fanbase shouldn’t either. Hopefully, he keeps up his level of play and can develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player off the edge for the Steelers in 2022.