Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith and defensive end DeMarvin Leal took part in a poorly timed celebration following a sack during Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns, and the former apologized for his role in it.
"I just don't want people to think of me that way and think I was doing anything [intentional]," Highsmith said, per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Because I would never, ever, ever, ever want to do that intentionally, and I never ever would do that."
The celebration in question came during the fourth quarter of the 28-14 victory.
Highsmith sacked Deshaun Watson and was then lying on the field when Leal approached him and pretended to administer chest compressions.
While the Steelers have done similar celebrations in the past, that this came on the first Sunday of games after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was resuscitated on the field and hospitalized following a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals made the timing inappropriate.
Highsmith, who was the Steelers' nominee for the 2022 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, provided more context to his apology:
"I just want people to know that I have nothing but love for Damar and his family. When that happened, I was shook for a couple days. Me and my wife, we were watching the game, we immediately saw it and intentionally started praying, intentionally prayed for him, his parents, the doctors, the nurses. Because me and her, we're both followers of Christ. We both believe that prayer is powerful, and I'm just thankful for the miraculous work God has done with Damar's life. I just want people to know that there was nothing intentional about that. It was never planned, none of that."
Hamlin seems to be trending in the right direction, as he was transferred Monday to a Buffalo hospital after being hospitalized at UC Medical Center in Cincinnati for nearly a week.
NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe reported the safety already "hit a lot of key milestones" in his recovery, including walking, eating a regular diet and undergoing physical therapy.