The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a difficult week – to say the least.
Firstly, the Steelers lose their “franchise quarterback”, Kenny Pickett, mid way through what was seemingly an easy win against the then 2-10 Arizona Cardinals, fighting for nothing more than some respectability for rookie head coach, Jonathan Gannon’s first season in charge.
Then, with a veteran backup in Mitchell Trubisky, who I personally think is a truly dreadful quarterback, even by backup standards – like really horribly bad – the team gets embarrassed at home by Arizona, 24-10. In this game, the Steelers had unquestionably their best player, TJ Watt, who head coach Mike Tomlin had pretty remarkable praise for – suffer an injury – although thankfully it was not too serious.
This is followed up by another, even more embarrassing loss against the also then 2-10 New England Patriots on Thursday night, including allowing Bailey Zappe to put up 21 points on them in the first half alone.
And for those thinking this is already a pretty terrible-horrible-no-good week, there is one final kick in the teeth to the Pittsburgh faithful. Their main man opposite TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith – who has quietly become a really excellent player, and the second half of one of the best edge rushing tandems in the NFL – suffered a nasty neck injury against the Patriots.
Now, there is further detail to the impact of this injury, per Ian Rapoport.
#Steelers standout pass-rusher Alex Highsmith has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol following last night’s game, sources say. He has more time to clear before their next game with the mini-bye.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 8, 2023
What Does This Mean For The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense?
The good news is that Highsmith is not necessarily ruled out, and has the bye week to recover. In fact, due to the game being on the Thursday, he’ll actually have almost 2.5 weeks to leave concussion protocol.
Yet this is still concerning news for the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off of two losses against teams both 8 (8!) games below .500. Pittsburgh are currently half a game out of the wild card mix and two games back from the lead in the AFC North – where they would hold the tiebreaker were they to beat the Baltimore Ravens when the teams meet in Week 18.
In fact, the majority of the Steelers’ schedule are games that have playoff implications for both sides – they face the Colts, Bengals and Ravens in 3 of their last 4 games – all of whom are looking to make a run in the postseason.
As for Alex Highsmith, hopefully he is ok and manages to not be too derailed by this injury – although injuries in that region of the body are always somewhat tenuous. Sending best wishes to Alex – Steelers are not in good place – Friday wrap up.