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Alex Highsmith may make the Steelers defense even better

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With Bud Dupree likely gone, PFF says Alex Highsmith may be even better

Video Transcript

- How about a good fit for Bud Dupree?

- Let's see, Bud. Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh's his best spot.

- Not going to happen.

- I know it's not. I'm just saying he's, in part-- he's getting hyped up in free agency because of Pittsburgh and TJ Watt.

- Yeah, I don't think he was a fan of that article that said he was the most overrated edge rusher. I think you guys did that. And it got on his radar. And when things get on his radar, he usually DMs the person who either said it or wrote it, at least that's my experience with him. So I don't know if that happened to you. But--

- I'm sorry. I mean, look, we don't hate anybody. We're just trying to give proper analysis. And from a team standpoint, I just-- I wouldn't be the one to pay him the money, that's all.

- Why?

- No offense. Why?

- Yeah.

- Oh, because our-- so our grade-- we've studied this quite a bit, right? If you are trying to predict future pass rush performance, you would use our grades first and foremost. It is the most-- it is the best predictor of future pass rush performance, and it is the best predictor of future sack totals. It's the thing you'd want to use.

And he has had one year where he's graded well in our system as a pass rusher. It was 2019. And it was great. I mean, he was fantastic that year. He was a pretty good run defender, and he was a great-- he was a very good pass rusher that year.

But he is the type of player who's always had higher sack totals than our pass rush grade would indicate, which means other people are doing it, or you've got a quarterback holding onto the ball too long. The one thing I'll say about Bud is his motor is awesome. The dude never stops, and that's part of the reason why he gets those sacks.

But for a guy that's going to make a lot of money, you want a guy who's going to dominate and win one on ones. Not just get sacks, but win one on ones. And he just doesn't do it at a high rate compared to most edge rushers in the league.

- So how close is he to, like, Shaq Barrett, in your opinion? Not in the same ballpark, really?

- Not in the same ballpark. And it's not-- I mean, look, you're talking about a few plays per year realistically. But with Shaq Barrett, last year at this time, we were saying the same thing. Like, you don't look at him and say he had 20 sacks, therefore pay him like a 20-sack guy. You know, that stuff-- he's a perfect example.

Now, he had a nice little playoff run. But the regular season, he had, like, 8 sacks, right? How did he go from 20 to 8? Did he change as a pass rusher? What happened? Like, all the other stuff that he couldn't control just went the other way this past year. So that's why you just don't look at sack totals.

And I think Bud, the biggest selling point for Bud is he's always had good sack totals. And that's the last thing you should look at when evaluating a pass rusher.

- Is there a big drop off from Dupree to Highsmith then, Steve?

- I don't-- no, and that's part of it too, right? I don't think that there is. And I also don't think, like, if the Steelers could bring in Tyus Bowser or-- Matthew Judon would probably make too much money. But say a Tyus Bowser. If they brought in Tyus Bowser and him and Highsmith split Bud's job, they'll combine for the 12 sacks, in my opinion.

They'll-- and that's only if you're judging that position by sacks, which I don't think you should. That's 12 plays out of 1,000. The guys that play 1,000 plays, we grade every player on every snap from a production standpoint. And I trust those grades, especially on the defensive line. That's what you should be using to evaluate players. And I do think Highsmith could definitely get you in the ballpark, if not better, than what Bud has shown.

- If not better?

- Yeah, if not better. Highsmith was awesome.

- In 2021? Or are you talking about, like, two or three years from now?

- Maybe in 2021. I think Bud's had one good year out of five. So can Highsmith do that? Absolutely.

- It's so funny--

- He was pretty good.

- It's so funny you say that, because Chad Brown getting back to his-- we don't need to get back into his reptile fetish. But he said the same thing. He said one super productive year from Dupree in one year. The Steelers should be comfortable replacing that. So I guess--

- That's it.

- --in that sense, you guys are on the same page with each other.

- Here's a little-- here's a little trick. You know how in baseball, when they, you know, the Moneyball thing, it was like, create a new closer, and they get a bunch of saves, and then they walk in free agency and you get a compensatory pick? Well, the Steelers-- the Rams are kind of doing this with Aaron Donald. He is creating high sack totals for his teammate.

Dante Fowler had 15, and then he walked in free agency, signed a big deal. But he's actually not that good. Same thing is going to happen to Leonard Floyd this year with the Rams. He's going to walk in free agency. The Rams are mopping up in compensatory picks. The Steelers might be able to do that because they blitz so much and TJ Watt is so good.

You create a sack monster opposite TJ Watt, continue to let that guy walk after what-- sign the guy for a year, let him get 10 sacks, let him walk, another team overpays him, you pick up the compensatory pick. That's how you rebuild in Pittsburgh. Somebody hire me.