Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB Alex Highsmith
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The third-year outside linebacker missed the entire preseason and the vast majority of training camp due to a rib injury, and only began practicing in the past two weeks, but he appears to be no worse for wear in time for the regular season opener in Cincinnati, having been entirely absent on the injury report.
Alex Highsmith finished his first season as a full-time starter last season with six sacks, three of which came in the last three games (and he had another in the team’s lone postseason game). Hopes of him being able to pick up where he left off were put on hold while he was dealing with a rib injury in August that seemed to be keeping him sidelined for a suspiciously long time.
Certainly it was largely a matter of the coaching staff playing it safe during a period of time in which nothing was at stake, but for a player who is still relatively young and inexperienced, that’s valuable practice time being missed.
But what’s done is done. For whatever reason, whether it was necessary or not, Highsmith missed most of camp, but he is back on the field and appears to be ready to go full-on in time for the start of the regular season, which is what matters.
Now the question is what he looks like. He hasn’t seen game action since last year, and didn’t get much padded work in during training camp before his rib injury, so there might be a bit of a feeling-out process to start Sunday’s game.
The Steelers must be sure that their pass rush is firing on all cylinders on Sunday as they prepare for certainly one of the very best passing offenses that they will face all season against the Bengals. Between quarterback Joe Burrow and his top wide receiver trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, the defensive backs will have their hands full if the pass rush isn’t getting home.