Alex Highsmith
Rookie Alex Highsmith has a chance to make a real impact in the regular season. (Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a team to praise their rookies in training camp, but that attitude appears to be changing. One of the forgotten draft picks for the Pittsburgh Steelers was 3rd round pick, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. However, at training camp, Highsmith has been turning heads. Even head coach Mike Tomlin uncharacteristically lauded the rookie linebacker. Even more impressive is that he has even been getting praise from all-pro linebacker T.J. Watt.

T.J. Watt told the press that he was confident in Alex Highsmith’s’ ability to cover for both him and Bud Dupree at an NFL level. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler also expressed confidence in Highsmith. Butler stated that he sees Highsmith contributing right away on defense once the season begins. The O-line also has respect for Highsmith. When asked what player was standing out in camp, tackle Chukwuma Okorafor picked Alex Highsmith as his standout player.

“It’s going to take a little while for Alex to catch up with them [Dupree and Watt], but I think he’s got a really good attitude for what we’ve asked him to do. He’s a really good learner. You don’t have to tell him something two or three times. He usually gets it after the first time. I’ve always thought good defensive football players learn from their mistakes, and what I mean from that is they don’t repeat them. I think Alex is that type of guy.”

Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler

This excellence at camp, however, should not have been unexpected. In his final season at Charlotte Alex Highsmith recorded 15 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. However, his lack of production in previous years allowed Highsmith to fall into the 3rd round in the NFL draft. Despite a weak start to his college career, his senior season completely makes up for it.

Currently, he is competing for the number 3 edge spot. With the release of Anthony Chichillo, he only has Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper to compete with. Luckily for Highsmith, both Adeniyi and Skipper are relatively unproven and have little NFL experience.

Bud Dupree is playing on the franchise tag in 2020. With a tight cap situation for the Steelers in 2021, Alex Highsmith may be groomed to replace Dupree on the edge, on the opposite side of T.J. Watt.