With the free agency of Bud Dupree looming, the Pittsburgh Steelers have already made preparations for the potential of no longer having him in the starting lineup at the right outside linebacker position. That plan would be to move forward with second-year Alex Highsmith in that spot, who started the final five games of the 2020 season after Dupree tore his ACL.
A third-round compensatory draft pick last year, Highsmith finished the year with nearly 50 tackles, with an interception and two sacks, though he expects more of himself, and understands that the team expects more, as well.
That Charlotte product recently sat down (virtually) with Missi Matthews for an exclusive interview on the team’s website, and they discussed his future and his ambitions for his second season, as well as the team’s goals for him.
“I felt like they went well”, he said of his exit meetings. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of room to grow. I know I can be a much better player going into year two, and that’s what they’re looking for. That’s what I’m looking for, to make that jump from year one to year two. I’ve already started working, I’m so excited to be able to make that jump for next year”.
Highsmith gave a lot of credit to Dupree and T.J. Watt for taking him under their wing and teaching him the game at the NFL level, though that is expected at this level and in this locker room. Still, he knows his development is on him.
“I’ve always been a process-driven guy. Me being a walk-on in college, I know that trusting the process and following the process is the most important thing”, he said. “I can set goals for myself, and I do, but I’ve got to do what I can day to day, week in and week out, just to be the best I can be to achieve those goals”.
“I do set a high standard for myself”, he added. “I know that I can definitely be more productive, and that’s what I’m looking to do this year, but I never would’ve guessed that my first interception would’ve come before my first sack. It was pretty cool, but I’m just working and excited to get more of those this upcoming year”.
Obviously, the team will be looking to get more than two sacks out of him assuming that he becomes an everyday starter, though watching his tape provides indications that he does possess the skill to get more, as he did ‘win’ at a fairly high rate and has a reasonably advanced pass-rush plan at this stage of his development.