Thanks to a career season in which he recorded 14.5 sacks and tied for the league lead with five forced fumbles, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, entering the final season of his rookie contract, is in line for a massive extension from the Steelers’ organization.
While GM Omar Khan didn’t come right out and state it Tuesday during a session with the media at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, an extension is on the horizon for Highsmith as the Steelers aim to retain a young, promising player they’ve developed over the last few seasons.
“I think you guys know our history,” Khan said. “We have a young up-and-coming player, you know we don’t like to let those guys go.”
Historically, the Steelers like to build through the draft and then extend those players, keeping them in Pittsburgh long-term. That’s exactly what’s going to happen with Highsmith.
Since stepping into the lineup late in the 2020 season as a rookie for the injured Bud Dupree, Highsmith has gotten better and better each and every season, culminating in the 14.5-sack season in 2022 in which he was a dominant force for the Steelers. Along with the 14.5 sacks, Highsmith had 55 pressures and had a career-best 78.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus while playing in a career-high 941 snaps.
Highsmith was a steady player in all phases. Pass rush, run defense, and the little bit of coverage Steelers’ EDGE rushers are asked to do. He was healthy and available and crucially rarely came off the field. He played 88.2% of the defense’s snaps this season, an every-down player counted on all the more with T.J. Watt sidelined.
Thanks to his development and overall production and impact on the field, Highsmith’s extension will be at the top of the Steelers’ to-do list this off-season for new GM Omar Khan. Last summer, Khan extended free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in June and wide receiver Diontae Johnson during training camp, so that could provide a timeline for when Highsmith will see his extension.
Make no mistake about it: a lucrative extension is coming for Highsmith. For how much and how long remains to be seen, but it’s well deserved for the former third-round pick out of Charlotte.