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2020 NFL Draft: Grading Pittsburgh Steelers selection of OLB Alex Highsmith

The Pittsburgh Steelers select Edge Alex Highsmith with the 102nd selection of the 2020 NFL Draft.

NFL Combine - Day 5 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked to further improve their already impressive defense by selecting Charlotte 49ers Edge Alex Highsmith with the 102nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. A former walk on who became a standout performer through hard work and perseverance, Highsmith is a promising edge player who projects as a outside linebacker in the NFL. He has a quick first step that allows him to beat blockers around the edge, then an impressive closing burst to the QB. Highsmith ran a 4.7 forty at the Combine, and posted solid numbers in the other drills.

Highsmith doesn't possess elite athleticism, but he is solid in all phases. He is tall and lanky, measuring 6'4" with a slender base. At 248 lbs. he has the prototypical size that the Steelers love in their Edge/OLB players. He will need some time in the weight room to master setting the edge against the running game, but he won't embarrass himself either due to his better than advertised hand usage and all out effort.

Highsmith actually has experience playing linebacker for a short stint in college, meaning he has the instincts and intelligence necessary to man multiple positions. The Steelers scouting department was apparently impressed with that ability. Highsmith was a dominant pass rusher against small school opposition, but in no way embarrassed himself when he had the opportunity to compete against Power 5 opponents. His tape against Clemson demonstrated his abilities, and confirmed he was easily Charlotte's most talented defender and belonged on the field. He more than held his own against National Championship level talent.

There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal their final grades, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.

Highsmith has a high ceiling, but will need time to adjust to the professional game and a steep step up in talent. I believe the young man has the work ethic to live in the weight room, and dive deep into the playbook to continue to improve. He has displayed continuous improvement thus far through his football career, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. His intensity and love for the game is truly impressive. Reportedly a high character guy, which has become the Steelers norm. The young man was beyond pumped when he was selected by the Steelers. Always good to see.

I believe the Steelers will try and ease Highsmith into the fray. He can contribute immediately as a pass rush specialist while he learns the NFL game. He is a solid depth piece who has starter potential down the line. He was projected to the Steelers in many mock drafts at the very spot taken, with one scout saying he just looked like a Steelers type player. I happen to agree wholeheartedly. Based on that criteria, I have to give this selection an A grade. I love the pick, and believe it to be a great value.

What overall grade would you give this selection? Please vote in the attached poll and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Steelers family from all of us at BTSC and Steelers Nation!


What overall grade do you give this Pittsburgh Steelers selection?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    A = Excellent selection
    (466 votes)
  • 38%
    B = Above average selection
    (874 votes)
  • 30%
    C = Solid selection
    (688 votes)
  • 8%
    D = Below average selection
    (181 votes)
  • 1%
    F = Terrible selection
    (34 votes)
2243 votes total Vote Now