2022 Exit Meetings – OLB Alex Highsmith

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted before they even reached the postseason, which unfortunately marks the sixth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—tying their longest drought of the Super Bowl era. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.

The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-8 and nearly making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Haden to most of their wide receiver room, not to mention Stephon Tuitt’s decision to retire.

While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2022 season.

Player: Alex Highsmith

Position: OLB

Experience: 3 Years

Alex Highsmith deserved to be in the Pro Bowl over T.J. Watt. And he certainly should have been a higher alternate selection than Matt Milano and Bradley Chubb, both of whom participated in the Pro Bowl after Watt and Khalil Mack did not participate.

Truthfully, I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that Highsmith wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity to be recognized as a Pro Bowler, even as an alternate, if he were chosen. Others have—notably Ramon Foster—but I’m working under the assumption that Milano and Chubb were higher-ranked alternates.

And that’s a shame, because he definitely had a better season than both of them. Not only did he put up 14.5 sacks with 12 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits, he also led the NFL with five forced fumbles. And he earned that success.

They say that pressure numbers are consistent, not sack numbers. And we saw from his play in 2021 that he had in him the capability of producing double-digit sacks. Yet he continued to improve as a pass rusher even further.

I do think that he gets knocked a bit too much for the argument that he wasn’t as successful without T.J. Watt on the field. Of course he wasn’t. Watt wouldn’t be as successful as he otherwise would be if he were playing with Malik Reed and Jamir Jones instead of Highsmith. Good players make each other better. When the defense only has to account for Reed on the other side, it makes it easier to defend the better player.

In my mind, Highsmith has already proven himself worthy of being considered a quality long-term starter. The only thing that’s left up in the air is how they can get him signed and whether or not that can be accomplished this offseason or if he will have to play out his rookie contract.

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