clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Comparing Alex Highsmith’s progress to Bud Dupree’s

Being the next man in town at the outside linebacker position opposite of T.J. Watt, Highsmith and Dupree will naturally draw comparisons by Steelers fans.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

During the 2022 NFL offseason, I was asked on my Steelers Stat Geek podcast to make a comparison between the second year production of Alex Highsmith and Bud Dupree. Since Dupree missed a good portion of his second season, I decided to compare Highsmith’s second year to Dupree’s third. The comparisons were fairly close.

This year, the same person asked the updated question of comparing Highsmith’s third season with the fourth season with the Steelers of Bud Dupree. Up to the task, I was all for making the comparison.

To start, let’s take a look at some key statistics for Alex Highsmith in his third season with the Steelers in 2022.

Alex Highsmith (2022)

Games: 17
Games started: 17
Snaps: 941
Tackles: 63
Tackles for loss: 12
QB hits: 20
Sacks: 14.5
Forced fumbles: 5
Fumble recoveries: 0
Interceptions: 0
Passes defensed: 1

To highlight some of the statistics, Highsmith led the Steelers with 14.5 sacks and was tied for the NFL lead with five forced fumbles. So how does that compare to Bud Dupree‘s fourth season in Pittsburgh in 2017?

Bud Dupree 2017

Games: 16
Games started: 15
Snaps: 868
Tackles: 42
Tackles for loss: 8
QB hits: 13
Sacks: 5.5
Forced fumbles: 1
Fumble recoveries: 0
Interceptions: 1
Passes defensed: 3

Obviously Bud Dupree could not play 17 regular season games in 2018 like Alex Highsmith did this season, so the most telling comparison comes with the number of snaps played. Highsmith played more snaps which would be expected. But within those snaps he had more than double the sacks and also had more quarterback hits, tackles, and forced fumbles. One thing in which Dupree had more were passes defensed.

As I looked down at Bud Dupree’s stats with the Steelers, I found something else which was another interesting thing in which to explore. How did Highsmith stats in his third season compare to Dupree’s fifth year in Pittsburgh? It was a contract year for Dupree as well as the last one in which he played the full season. How did they compare?

Bud Dupree 2019

Games: 16
Games started: 16
Snaps: 980
Tackles: 68
Tackles for loss: 16
QB hits: 17
Sacks: 11.5
Forced fumbles: 4
Fumble recoveries: 1
Interceptions: 0
Passes defensed: 3

The first thing to note is Bud Dupre actually played more snaps in 2019 then Highsmith did in 2022 with one less game. The tackles were very close with Dupree having five more with Bud also getting the advantage of a few in tackles for loss. Highsmith held advantages in quarterback hits and sacks as well as forced fumbles. As with the season before, Dupree had more passes defensed. With that being said, it appears that Alex Highsmith’s third season lines up much closer with Bud Dupree‘s fifth year in Pittsburgh than with any other comparison.

As I dug into things more, I was trying to find a good comparison with Alex Highsmith and another player in their third year in the NFL at outside linebacker. Here is one that was pretty interesting...

Player X

Games: 16
Games started: 16
Snaps: 935
Tackles: 55
Tackles for loss: 14
QB hits: 36
Sacks: 14.5
Forced fumbles: 8
Fumble recoveries: 4
Interceptions: 2
Passes defensed: 8

To make the comparison, Highsmith played more snaps and had more tackles but a few less that were for loss. This player had far more quarterback hits than Highsmith yet they both finished with the same number of sacks. This player had more forced fumbles with eight which also led the NFL that season as well as having more fumble recoveries, interceptions, and passes defensed.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the statistics for Player X are from T.J. Watt in his third season in Pittsburgh in 2019. It was Watt’s second season in which he was selected to the Pro Bowl and his first in which he was on First Team All-Pro. Additionally, T.J. Watt did not have the benefit of playing on the opposite side of... T.J. Watt.

Although Bud Dupree‘s numbers for his third season were not listed, they were not much different than his fourth season as he did not take a huge leap. And by even going ahead and looking at Dupree‘s fifth year with the Steelers, it gives us the best comparison to Alex Highsmith’s 2022. As for year six in Pittsburgh with Dupree, his final season with the Steelers, the numbers there will also be skewed because Dupree was injured and missed the last portion of the season. For this reason, this pretty much ends the Alex Highsmith and Bud Dupree comparison going forward.

But now that we’ve seen where Alex Highsmith was in his third season compared to T.J. Watt, perhaps any progression with Highsmith going forward can be held to a higher standard. While it’s pretty lofty to compare Highsmith to Watt, there’s still a lot still to be written with Alex Highsmith’s career to decide if that’s a fair comparison.

After looking at all the numbers, the best thing to do moving forward with Alex Highsmith is to simply compare him to Alex Highsmith.

To check out the breakdown on the Steelers Stat Geek podcast as well as some numbers in regards to Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt, check out the most recent episode below: