No member of the Pittsburgh Steelers — outside of maybe head coach Mike Tomlin — was happier to see star outside linebacker T.J. Watt return on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints then third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
In the Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Highsmith had a field day opposite Watt, recording three sacks and really affecting the game in a massive way. Without Watt on the field from Weeks 2-8, Highsmith had his ups and downs like the rest of the defense, but with Watt back on the field Sunday at Acrisure Stadium against the Saints, Highsmith found his game once again.
In the 20-10 win over the Saints, Highsmith continued his strong 2022 season, recording five tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit, showing off his impressive get-off and inside spin move throughout the contest. With his running partner opposite him, Highsmith had a positive impact on the game and garnered praise from Watt following the win.
Speaking with reporters post-game, Watt credited Highsmith for taking advantage of one-on-one matchups and affecting the game in a big way from start to finish, according to video via the Steelers official Twitter page.
“Yeah, I think when there’s just so much chipping on on one side or the other, you can’t block everybody up front,” Watt stated to reporters. “I think Cam Heyward has done a great job. Chris Worley, Larry O [Ogunjobi] have done a phenomenal job as well. So I think it’s just to a point where when you’re one dimensional, someone’s gonna get through.
“It’s just a matter of time. Today, Alex got through quickly and was able to affect the game and he deserves it. He works his ass off.”
Highsmith has been improving each and every season as a member of the Steelers and is enjoying a breakout season so far.
Coming into the season, Highsmith was aiming for double digit sacks. Currently, he sits at 8.5 on the season with eight weeks remaining. With Watt back in the fold, the sky is the limit for the breakout third-year player.
Prior to the showing in Week 10 against the Saints, Highsmith spoke earlier in the week about how excited he was to get not only his teammate, but his friend back on the field with him.
“Just like I said earlier, having a guy back like that, I think he just adds so much to our defense,” Highsmith stated to reporters, according to video via the Steelers Live Twitter account. “Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. Like I said, he just brings so much energy and so much splash and whenever he makes those plays it just adds juice to the whole team. We’re super excited to have him back.”
Turns out, Highsmith knew immediately what type of energy and splash Watt’s return would provide. Highsmith was jazzed up and ready to go on Sunday and his performance showed that.
Pairing Highsmith’s speed and inside spin move with Watt’s impressive overall arsenal will be tough for opposing offenses to deal with down the stretch, especially in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals once again, this time at Acrisure Stadium. Hopefully teams continue to try and chip Watt on the right side, leaving one-on-one opportunities for Highsmith, Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi along the defensive front, leading to lucrative days for all three.