Watt On Highsmith Not Getting National Recognition: ‘It Doesn’t Really Make A Lot Of Sense’

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith registered 13.5 sacks in 2022, his third NFL season, and while only five other players had more than him, you probably wouldn’t know that outside of Pittsburgh. In short, Highsmith hasn’t received much national attention for the tremendous 2022 season that he had. Well, if it’s of any consolation, fellow Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt certainly doesn’t understand that premise.

On Thursday, Brooke Pryor of ESPN caught up with Watt today as part of a pre-Super Bowl media circuit and he let her know that he was surprised Highsmith didn’t get more national recognition for his 2022 season.

“It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, to be honest,” Watt told Pryor. “A year prior, he had a lot of pressures and just wasn’t able to get the quarterback down. That’s what we were talking about the whole offseason, was just he getting the quarterback down, he is gonna explode.

“Everybody saw that this year. The stats came with it and a lot of things that don’t show up on the stats. He had just an incredible year against the run and the pass and just told him to stay the course and all that stuff will take care of itself. You can control what you can control and just try to springboard and get better and keep climbing each and every year.”

Highsmith will enter the final year of his rookie contract in March and thanks to him continuing to improve these last two seasons, he has himself in a great position to potentially sign a lucrative contract extension prior to Week 1 of the 2023 regular season.

In a recent interview with KDKA-TV, Steelers team president Art Rooney II was asked about Highsmith and specifically, if he thinks that the former third round draft pick out of Charlotte might get signed to a contract extension this offseason. Rooney, however, would not tip the team’s plans on that matter.

“No doubt Alex had a great season, and we look forward to having him on the team,” Rooney told Bob Pompeani. “I think he and T.J. [Watt] can be a strong combination rushing from both sides, a little bit like Bud [Dupree] was with T.J. for a couple years there. We’ll see what happens with the contract, but we’re happy to have Alex, too.”

Personally, I think the Steelers will try everything within reason to sign Highsmith to a fair contract extension this offseason at some point. After all, he probably hasn’t peeked yet as an all-around defensive player and he’s still yet to turn 26 years old. Double digit sacks should be his thing for the next several years if he stays healthy.

Whatever does ultimately happen with Highsmith this offseason from a contract perspective, Watt made it clear to Pryor on Thursday that nobody should be concerned about his teammate when it comes to him improving as a player as he enters his fourth NFL season.

“I’m not worried about Alex at all,” Watt said. “He’s got plenty of motivation, plenty of support, and I’m just super excited to see how he continues to grow as a teammate and a player.”

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