As an outside linebacker at the start of the 2020 season who was part of a unit that had T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree as the starters, Alex Highsmith's rookie year would have been seen as a success if he could provide some quality snaps in each game to allow the starters to get some rest over the course of a game in order to stay fresh for the fourth quarters. Highsmith was doing that, but then his life changed on the day Dupree tore an ACL and was lost for the rest of the season. The Steelers were going to need more, and Highsmith was expected to provide it.
What he provided during the regular season finale in Cleveland that ended in a 24-22 Browns victory was solid play in every aspect of the way the Steelers use their outside linebackers. He led the team with nine tackles, he had one of the team's four sacks of Baker Mayfield, and he provided pretty consistent pressure for a defense that played without starters T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Joe Haden.
Highsmith is the Steelers Digest Player of the Week.
Also considered was Mason Rudolph, who should have shut a lot of mouths by completing 22-of-39 (56.4 percent) for 315 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception, and a rating of 89.2. It was Rudolph's first extended playing time since the 2019 season, and he was a part of four pass plays that gained more than 25 yards. There was a 47-yarder to Diontae Johnson, a 41-yarder to Johnson, a 41-yarder to Chase Claypool, a 28-yard touchdown to Claypool, and a 26-yarder to JuJu Smith-Schuster. On his interception, CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore said a roughing the passer penalty should have been called for a blow to his head, and on the failed two-point conversion pass that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter, the Browns interfered with Claypool.
In addition to Highsmith and Rudolph, others who turned in notable performances were Claypool, who caught five passes for 101 yards including that 28-yard touchdown; outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who had four tackles, including two for loss, plus a sack; Stephon Tuitt, who had three tackles and a sack; and Matthew Wright, who was 3-for-3 in field goals – from 29, 46, and 46 yards – in place of the injured Chris Boswell.