Watt Impressed By Alex Highsmith’s Ascension: ‘It’s Fun To See His Pass Rush Package Evolve’

On Friday, OLB T.J. Watt spoke to the media in lead up to Pittsburgh’s game this coming Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons on the road and was asked about fellow edge rusher Alex Highsmith and how raw he was rushing the passer compared to now, Watt challenged the comment stating that Highsmith Just needed to add more tools to his pass rush repertoire.

“I don’t think he was raw,” Watt said to the media Friday in the locker room on video from the team’s website. “I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is he loved the cross chop. That’s all that he would really do was cross chop. And it was raw; It was a bad cross chop. It wasn’t great. It was like a very high jump-like skip, and he tried it every move. I think that’s the thing with a lot of young guys. They have like one move they really want to perfect and that’s all they do. And I think a credit to him is he’s got the cross chop down to a science now. He’s got the spin, he’s got the power and everything’s complimentary for his moves. And it’s fun to see his pass rush package evolve.”

Highsmith got drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft and played as a reserve for most of his rookie season behind Watt and Bud Dupree. He started five games after Dupree tore his ACL and finished his rookie campaign with two sacks. Highsmith showed signs of improvement last season as a full-time starter, posting six sacks in an expanded role. Now in 2022, he has taken his game to another level, sitting currently at ten sacks on the season with six games left to play.

Highsmith has vastly improved as a pass rusher over his first three seasons with the Steelers. Much like Watt mentioned, Highsmith would try the same move over and over again as a rookie but started to expand his pass rush plan in 2021, flashing the use of multiple moves including a wicked spin move that he has since perfected.


Highsmith’s ascension as a pass rusher hasn’t been without numerous hours of working on his craft. Watt stated a while back that Highsmith is always asking questions in practice, consumes film like a buffet, and constantly studies himself and other pass rusher in attempt to improve his game. Well, all of that hard work is starting to pay off for a former third-rounder out of Charlotte, ranking near the top of the league in sacks while giving Pittsburgh the running mate it has been looking for across from Watt to tee off on opposing quarterbacks on a weekly basis.

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