Of course, the player everyone talks about is Chase Claypool. It was Claypool’s 11 combined touchdowns which caught all the headlines. If not Claypool, guard Kevin Dotson was considered all the rage for a vast majority of the fan base. The fourth round pick was called into action more than anyone expected, but he was certainly able to hold his own. So much so, the position of guard isn’t considered a need heading into the 2021 season.
But of all the Steelers’ rookies, and all NFL rookies across the NFL, ESPN experts gave their thoughts on which rookie would take the biggest jump in 2021. One of those experts picked a Steelers 2020 rookie.
Not Dotson either.
No, Seth Walder, a sports analytics writer, actually picked third round pick, and outside linebacker, Alex Highsmith as his selection to have a stand out 2021 campaign.
Here is what he said about Highsmith:
“Alex Highsmith, OLB, Steelers. After Bud Dupree tore his ACL in Week 12, Highsmith took over as a starter — a role he’ll presumably keep with Dupree likely leaving in free agency. And in his limited playing time, Highsmith shined; if we halve the qualifier, the Steelers rookie ranked seventh in pass rush win rate at edge ... one spot ahead of Chase Young.”
The former Charlotte product certainly did turn heads in his rookie season, even though he was likely thrust into the starting role earlier than anyone expected. Nonetheless, his 2020 stat line looked like this:
Total Tackles: 48
QB Hits: 6
Those are modest stats, but what would a huge jump for Highsmith look like in 2021? What would his season totals be which would have him taking such a huge step forward in Year 2?
If Highsmith stays healthy, playing in all 16 games, I would suggest having him near double digit sacks would be just the step these experts are predicting. It would not just be a sophomore jump for Highsmith, but would help further solidify his spot on what would be a stellar Steelers defense.
What would the stat line look like for Highsmith in 2021? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.