Steelers pass-rusher Alex Highsmith clears protocol

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' pass rush will be at full strength against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.

Alex Highsmith has cleared the concussion protocol after an evaluation from an independent neurologist, team spokesperson Burt Lauten announced Thursday afternoon. Teammate and fellow starter T.J. Watt cleared the protocol Wednesday night.

"Alex is a special player because of who he is," Watt said Thursday.

Each was a full participant in the final practice of the week, and both are without injury designations -- meaning they're expected to play Saturday in a game crucial to the Steelers' playoff hopes.

Watt and Highsmith sustained concussions in the Thursday night loss to the New England Patriots. Watt was evaluated for a concussion in the sideline medical tent after the first play of the game and cleared to return after just two plays, while Highsmith didn't finish the game after sustaining a neck injury in the second quarter. He later entered the concussion protocol.

Watt spoke Thursday for the first time since his concussion, and he said he feels "great."

"We went through all the steps possible, and it felt like we did everything the right way," Watt said of following the protocol.

Watt reentered the game wearing a visor with a darker tint, and he was seen using smelling salts on the sideline. In the days since, the NFL and NFLPA jointly initiated a review of the situation surrounding Watt and the protocol, a standard procedure for players who enter the concussion protocol.

On Thursday, Watt declined to elaborate on using the tinted visor or smelling salts during the game.

"We can break down every little thing that I do," Watt said. "I think it's funny how things get caught on camera when you could do some things other times that aren't on camera. So I'm not going to get in all the specifics and into a debate about it."