Alex Highsmith Breakout Season Could Lead To First Pro Bowl Selection

Pittsburgh Steelers EDGE rusher Alex Highsmith is having a breakout season, and CBS Sports is recognizing it. Today, they put out a list that detailed 15 players who are on track to make the Pro Bowl for the first time, and Highsmith made the list. 

Writing for CBS Sports, Cody Benjamin outlined Highsmith’s emergence in the absence of the reigning defensive M.V.P. T.J. Watt. 

T.J. Watt is unmatched, but Highsmith’s surprise emergence helped lessen the blow of his counterpart’s injury-related absence” Benjamin wrote. “He’s had quiet stretches but should be well-positioned for even more action against QBs with Watt back in the lineup.” 

On the season so far, Highsmith has recorded 36 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and has added three forced fumbles to his name, including one in last Sunday’s victory over the New Orleans Saints. Highsmith certainly has the stats to make the Pro Bowl, and if he avoids a season ending injury in the next couple of games he should break double digit sacks. The Steelers have had a player with double digit sacks in every season since 2017, with 2016 being the last year with no player reaching ten sacks. James Harrison led that 2016 team with five sacks 

Highsmith should be able to continue their streak of five years of having at least one member of the defensive finish with at least ten sacks, and could tally the most sacks from someone not named Watt since Lamar Woodley tallied 13.5 in 2009. Five of Highsmith’s sacks have come when Watt is playing, and Watt has only played in two games this season. All the attention Watt gets has created many opportunities for Highsmith, and he has done well in finishing them. 

The one criticism that Benjamin had about Highsmith was that he had some games where he was not very noticeable in Watt’s absence. However, I would argue that shows Highsmith’s importance. With Watt out they focused most of their attention on Highsmith and he still put up respectable numbers. Highsmith had 3.5 sacks in seven games without Watt, which is by no means great, but also is not terrible. 

But now Watt is back, and Watt and Highsmith work best as Batman and Robin, and this year, Robin has done enough to earn himself a Pro-Bowl spot. As of now, it looks like former general manager Kevin Colbert made the right decision in moving on from Bud Dupree for the unproven EDGE rusher out of Charlotte. It will be interesting to see what new general manager Omar Khan does when it is time to talk about a contract extension for Highsmith if he keeps up this level of play. 

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