Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: OLB Alex Highsmith
Stock Value: Up
This is the first time that I’m talking about any of the rookies in this column, outside of discussing their acquisition into the fold. Ordinarily we would have had discussions about at least a handful of them by now, but with no OTAs and minicamp, there aren’t really many meaningful updates that we can draw from.
For third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, at least, we can see that he has been training with some of his teammates, working with defensive line trainer Brandon Jordan, with, among others, Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, and the rest of the outside linebackers short of T.J. Watt, who is training with his brothers.
The NFL has issued a prohibition on players even entering team facilities until at least the opening of training camp, so the fact that Highsmith has at least had the opportunity to gather with some of his teammates face-to-face is, at least to me, something that is newsworthy.
He has spent the past month and a half in the virtual classroom learning defensive concepts and techniques with minimal ability to try to translate that from the chalkboard onto the grass, but he can get some of that done with his teammates, especially with Dupree, Tuzar Skipper, and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who of course share his position group, and all of whom have been seen working with Jordan.
That’s not the same as being at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex getting drilled by Keith Butler, who is the team’s defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach, but player-to-player learning is a big part of development as well.
We can at least hope that that helps to give him something of a leg up on other rookies as he reports to training camp next month in preparation for the start of the 2020 season. It’s not a guarantee of anything, of course, but in this climate, it’s better than nothing, which is almost exclusively what we have been getting up to this point.