For the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, stopping the run on defense will be as much of a priority as improving their offensive line play.
When it came to stopping the run last season, the Steelers were arguably the worst in the NFL. According to ESPN Analytics, the team's defensive unit finished 29th in run stop win rata at 29%, while allowing opponents a league worst 143.8 rushing yards per game.
Improving this weakness will require a collective effort from both their defensive line and linebackers. Third-year linebacker Alex Highsmith is one such player that will be key to fixing their issues in this domain. Last season, Highsmith finished 8th among edge rushers in run-stop win rate at 29%, with reigning Defense Player of the Year and teammate, T.J. Watt, ranked one position ahead of him.
In his two years with the team, Highsmith has seen his overall numbers double from his rookie season. Last season, Highsmith set career highs in both total tackles with 74 and tackles of loss with 15.
Though his priority remains disrupting the backfield, his steady presence on the edge has proven beneficial to stopping the run. Even with the potential of a breakout season, Highsmith will be essential in helping elevate a run defense that is in dire need of a boost.