They say that the second-year jump is typically the biggest that a player makes in his career. That can be true on a general level, and there are obvious reasons for it, but it’s not a universal rule. Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith did make a jump this past season, but he intends to take an even bigger step forward this offseason heading into year three, and that’s by largely sticking with what he knows works.
“I’m gonna be in Charlotte for the majority of my training this offseason”, he said about his offseason plans thus far. “I’ve got a good training regimen down there, a good trainer, just a good flow down there. Last year I felt like I had one of my best offseasons, and I feel like I came into camp in the best shape of my life, so I think that’s gonna be a home base for me in the offseason”.
Highsmith, of course, is from Wilmington, NC, and attended college at Charlotte. He excelled in his final two collegiate seasons, especially as a senior after being put on the edge, and he rose up the draft boards despite being a ‘small-school product’. He knows what’s worked for him and he’s going to keep at it.
But he also sees what works for others and he wants a part of that, too. He expressed a hope to get a chance to train a bit with T.J. Watt with offseason as well. “I’ll try to get some work in with T.J. some time over the offseason as well, and some other pass-rushers”, he said. “Hopefully we can get up there [in Wisconsin] for a week or so, get together and get some training in also”.
The Watt brothers—the others being J.J. and Derek—somewhat famously spend a good portion of their offseason isolated on their own training up in their home area in Wisconsin, the eldest, J.J., having first set up that training facility.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how many teammates have been up there with any of the brothers in the past, so I’m not sure how rare an opportunity it would be for Highsmith to get a chance to put in that work in their own training area.
Highsmith started 16 games this past season, finishing with 48 tackles, including 15 for loss, with six sacks, 15 hits, and a forced fumble. He also added another sack in the Steelers’ Wildcard Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even though he came in with a strong offseason and training camp, Highsmith was literally hamstrung at the outset of the regular season. He suffered a hamstring injury leading up to the opener, which he had no choice but to play through, but it did ultimately cost him a start two weeks later. One wonders how healthy he was at any point in the season—which should be encouraging for what he can do in 2022.