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Veteran defenders see a new, and improved, Steelers defense in 2023

There are question marks surrounding the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers defense, but the returning players see the sky as the limit.

NFL: MAY 24 Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is coming off a year where the main storyline wasn’t the overall amount of sack production, but the injury to T.J. Watt which continued to be a damper on the defense.

After Omar Khan’s first full offseason as the General Manager (GM), there are some new faces on the defensive side of the football. After mandatory minicamp wrapped up this past week, the veterans on the defense are excited about the potential which resides along the defensive side of the ball.

How good can they be? Well, according to Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt, the sky is the limit.

“I know 100% we can be the best defense in the NFL, especially if we all stay healthy,” said linebacker Alex Highsmith. “I am excited about the guys that we have. We have depth at almost every position. It’s been good seeing guys come together and get better and better every day. The sky is the limit for us. I am excited to see how we continue to grow.”

Having the players is one thing. Having those players show the dedication to the game is another. Luckily for the Steelers, Highsmith sees both on the current defensive roster.

“We have so many good players,” said Highsmith. “We have so many guys who are dedicated to this game. Last year we started playing our best ball at the end of the year. If we can build on that, we can be the best. That is what I believe because we have a lot of guys who have bought in and are talented as well.”

Ultimately, with the new players in the mix the goal throughout offseason workouts wasn’t to go out and win games now. That’s impossible. Instead, the focus is steady improvement and gelling as a unit.

“We progressed every single day,” said Watt. “That is why we have all been here throughout. That is what we tried to accomplish. We weren’t here trying to win games right now. We were just trying to gel as a defense. We’ve done a lot of that. More than anything it’s camaraderie, guys hanging out together on and off the field. We had a team building event. Those things are important as a defense. We are making plays. Guys are figuring out how to play Pittsburgh Steelers defense. And it went well.”

The participation level for the Steelers was tremendous throughout the offseason workout schedule. Not just the players grinding for a roster spot, but veterans were there and pressing forward towards the common goal of being the best defense they can possibly be.

“It was great, all together building chemistry,” said Highsmith. “Whenever guys are here, we can build that chemistry together, work on our communication. A lot of guys being here has helped us to communicate well and be able to play fast.”

“That’s why it’s so crucial to have as many people here as possible,” said Watt. “To be able to get as many of those timing things down, especially as a defense in the pass rush game. You have multipole elements in the game, and you all have to be on the same page for it. If you can get those things out of the way now so you don’t have to worry about it in training camp, it’s a win.”

If 2022 taught the fan base anything it is how health is paramount when it comes to the success, or failure, of the defense. However, if they can remain together as a unit, this defense could exceed many fans’ expectations for the 2023 season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.