The Black Cats finished bottom of the Premier League last season and have struggled in the Championship so far, sitting 20th after just one win in seven.
Higginbotham, who played for the club during the 2007-08 season, believes that new manager Simon Grayson must turn the slump around and get the side going forward again.
"I think the expectation levels are huge. The supporters have been down for so long fighting at the bottom of the Premier League, and home form is a big issue as well," he told Sky Sports News.
"We know Grayson has gone in there and he'll want to look forward not back, but it's not as simple as that. You need to start getting wins, but it's very difficult when you've been in a slump. They've got to handle the pressure.
"The supporters just want to see a team that will battle against the opposition. We've all been in a dressing room where the team is struggling, but when you get out on the pitch you can't have three, four or five players hiding in situations. You need everyone pulling in the same direction."
Next up for Grayson's men is a trip to Hull City on Saturday afternoon.