PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Thursday afternoon that linebacker Bud Dupree is lost for the season with a “significant knee injury”. He didn’t hesitate to say rookie OLB Alex Highsmith becomes the starter.
“I’m just as comfortable and confident as I was in Robert Spillane, when we called upon him (Devin Bush injury) or Kevin Dotson (David DeCastro injury) when we called upon him on the other side of the ball,” Tomlin said. “That’s life in this business.”
Highsmith has 20 tackles this year, a sack and a key interception at Baltimore early last month. However he’s not played more than 25 snaps in one game this season and that was a quarter of the defensive reps.
“Those guys work behind the scenes every day very diligently preparing themselves for these opportunities, not only in terms of knowing what to do, but preparing themselves in terms of conditioning for when we ring their bell. We are ringing Alex Highsmith’s bell now.”
“It will be exciting to watch him respond to it. It also will be exciting to watch his growth because growth is associated with experience. No doubt in the upcoming weeks he will be gaining a lot of that.”
Tomlin said he was impressed with the maturity that Highsmith showed in college leading to 15 sacks and 21 and a half tackles for loss in 2019 at UNC-Charlotte.
“He had a tangible growing resume and he had a maturity that we thought that would aid us if called upon in the ways he’s being called upon right now,” Tomlin said.
How will missing the eight sacks from Dupree affect the production of TJ Watt, leading the NFL with 11 sacks?
“I don’t think TJ Watt gets assistance from anyone in terms of his quality of play,” Tomlin said. “TJ makes his plays. I don’t think that will be an issue at all. Guys like TJ don’t depend on anyone.”
MRI for starting corner
Tomlin said corner Steven Nelson is getting a MRI on his knee and he didn’t know any other details as of right now. Nelson was able to finish the game, but Tomlin said it was something worth looking at.