While we still don’t know definitely how the offseason is going to play out, the majority consensus tends to favor the idea that outside linebacker Bud Dupree and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be parting ways—if only because he will not be affordable within the bounds of their very limited salary cap situation, especially if he is in need of a one-year ‘prove it’ deal with nowhere to spread the cap hit.
As a consequence of that likely departure, it would be up to second-year Alex Highsmith to move up into the starting lineup on a full-time basis. The 2020 third-round draft pick started the final six games of the season last year, including the postseason, after Dupree suffered a torn ACL, but being the designated starter and asked to play some 1000 snaps is another rodeo altogether.
Naturally, with a starting job comes greater expectations, but Highsmith is somebody who is wired to do the work, and has been ingrained with the message of always being prepared since the day that he arrived in Pittsburgh, as he told Teresa Varley.
“Both T.J. and Bud gave me advice on coming in prepared”, he said. “A lot of other guys told me that too. Always be prepared, especially coming in to camp. Everyone told me to come in prepared and ready for camp. That is the biggest lesson I learned – always be prepared”.
He was prepared, and I certainly think you could say that he lived up to the expectations that were in place for what his rookie season should look like. At the very least, he put people in a place of comfort with the idea that he could be a starter in 2021, which is certainly saying something.
While he is satisfied with what he has done to this point, he understands that there are many ways to get better, and he also laid out some of his goals for the upcoming offseason as he looks to be even more prepared than before.
“I want to get stronger and faster. I want to gain a few pounds, but not too much”, he told Varley. “Mainly get stronger and faster. For me, I have to do what I can day in and day out to be the best I can be. I have to be stronger and faster to be more productive and that is the goal for me over the next couple of months”.
Arguably the most notable critique has been that he is a bit underweight and could stand to put on a few pounds. While it was expected all along that he would be asked to bulk up some heading into his second season—a very common transformation for a second-year player of his background as an edge defender—it’s also good to hear it coming directly from the first-hand source.