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Steelers LB Alex Highsmith: 'We can be the best defense in the NFL' in 2023 if we stay healthy

Alex Highsmith's career year came as a pleasant surprise in 2022.

It might also be a sign of great things to come for the Steelers defender.

T.J. Watt's premature departure due to a pectoral injury meant Pittsburgh needed to find pass-rushing production elsewhere. Enter Highsmith, who posted 14.5 sacks and introduced himself to the NFL as a quality edge rusher capable of teaming with Watt to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

Judging by the vibe from Steelers minicamp, such nightmares may be ahead.

"I know 100% we can be the best defense in the NFL, especially if we all stay healthy," Highsmith said, via the team’s official site. "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."

The depth Highsmith speaks of is a product of a highly encouraging offseason, in which the Steelers rebuilt their starting linebacking corps by signing Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts before snagging cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in the draft. They didn't stop there, either, adding a couple of Georgia studs in tackle Broderick Jones and tight end Darnell Washington.

In the span of a year, Pittsburgh essentially reloaded.

"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."

Watt's return alone is a boon for the Steelers, who were forced to scrap on a weekly basis without him. Highsmith's production helped soften the blow, but no one plans for the loss of an All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year.

The Steelers will hope such difficulties are behind them. Now, they're focused on what's ahead.

"That's why it's so crucial to have as many people here as possible," Watt said. "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."

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