Lost in the final two minutes of the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football was third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith absolutely dominating his matchups, essentially closing out the game for his team. The Colts only had five offensive snaps after the two-minute warning before surrendering the ball back to the Steelers, Highsmith played a substantial part in three of them. Let’s take a deeper look.
Following the Colts’ fourth-down conversion immediately after the two-minute warning, Highsmith tried to call “game” right then and there. He’s lined up across from rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann and Highsmith takes him back to school. He times the snap perfectly, showing off his elite first step. That all but wins the rep for Highsmith, as he gives a simple “dip and rip” to finish the job on Raimann before running down the quarterback, Matt Ryan.
Highsmith has also mastered the art of attacking the ball when going after the quarterback, punching the ball out from behind as he wraps up Ryan. Unfortunately, the Colts lineman was there to fall on it, but it did give Highsmith the league-leading fourth forced fumble as well as his 10th sack of the year, Highsmith’s first double-digit season.
For sequencing purposes, we’ll take a look at 2nd & 17. Matt Ryan was able to pull it down and run up to the middle for 14 yards.
Now back to the Highsmith show.
On 3rd & 2 Indianapolis wants to go back to the ground. While it takes some post-snap movement to see, the Steelers have a 7-man box with nickel cornerback Cam Sutton sliding in. With the run to the right and the post-snap movement, it’s going to make this a 1-on-1 matchup between running back, Jonathan Taylor, and Sutton. That’s not the most favorable matchup for Pittsburgh in this situation.
Highsmith didn’t want to leave that matchup to chance as he was able to slant down the line, again using his explosive first step, and beat the tight end to the spot. You can’t put a tight end on either of the starting Steelers outside linebackers and expect to be successful. The play yielded no yards and forced Jeff Saturday and the Colts to finally use their first time out with only 30 seconds left in the game.
On fourth down the Colts go to a rub route on the outside to try to get the first down. They get the man-to-man look they want and it successfully springs the slot WR open in the flat. It goes to perfection except Matt Ryan can’t throw the ball due to his left tackle being bull-rushed into his lap by Highsmith. This causes Ryan to scramble left and throw one up down the sidelines instead and fall incomplete on fourth down.
An absolutely incredible three-play sequence over four plays for Highsmith. He took over the last drive and didn’t want to leave any chance of this game going to overtime.
Somehow, even with him hitting double-digit sacks this year, fans have been down on Highsmith’s play while his All-World running mate at outside linebacker, TJ Watt, was out from weeks two through nine. However, he’s shown that he’s becoming a complete player across the board. With Highsmith showing no signs of slowing down his development he’s bound to create some tough decisions for new Steelers General Manager, Omar Khan, down the road when it comes to bringing the checkbook out for the former third-round pick out of Charlotte.