Quick question for our faithful BTSC community. Have you ever experienced a hauntingly familiar feeling about an individual, but have absolutely no idea why that is? That was my initial reaction after seeing rookie Alex Highsmith celebrating with his family after being a third round selection for the Steelers, and I had no clue as to why. Finally the answer came to mind this week.
Steelers training camp kicked off this week with players reporting for duty, and COVID testing. Nothing about the initial process has a familiar feeling to it. No dorm rooms and sweltering summer days on the practice fields of Latrobe. Instead of scores of fans watching intently from the hillsides hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite player or newcomers, we fans are left scouring the web for any tidbits of relevant information.
This reality left me watching virtual interviews and scrolling through the limited photos available. This is where my deja vu kicked in big time.
There were multiple photos of Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith in his Steelers practice jersey, and I had to take a double take. Suddenly it all made perfect sense. Going all the way back to his draft night, something seemed strangely familiar whenever I saw Highsmith on the screen. Finally, after seeing the photos of him in his practice jersey, the answer was more than apparent.
Alex Highsmith bears a striking resemblance to former Steelers standout Chad Brown, both in appearance and athletic ability.
Both athletically gifted linebackers are almost identical in their listed measurements, although Brown was two inches shorter according to his profile. Both men possess position versatility, able to play both the inside and outside positions.
Chad Brown began his Steelers tenure as a inside linebacker, a valued member of the Blitzburgh defense. He was a starting ILB in the Steelers Super Bowl XXX loss to the Dallas Cowboys in 1995, before moving to OLB after Greg Lloyd went down with a season ending knee injury early the next season. That just so happened to be the first Pro Bowl season of his career, the first of three. He accomplished two All Pro seasons, one as a inside linebacker and one manning the outside. Brown was the epitome of positional versatility. Just a solid, well rounded defender and player.
Highsmith is cut from the same cloth. A former walk on, nothing has been given to the young man. He has had to fight for every accolade and accomplishment. His character and work ethic was on full display throughout his collegiate career as he utilized the weight room to transform his physique into one worthy of a NFL third round draft pick. He saved his most dominant performances for the elite competition. Fully aware that defeat was inevitable, Highsmith left every ounce of effort on the field of battle, earning the upmost respect from the opponents. Look no further than Dabo Sweeney and the Clemson Tigers for confirmation.
Highsmith played both inside and outside linebacker for the Charlotte 49ers during his time there, excelling at whatever task he was given. In a day and age where players balk at the suggestion or enter the transfer portal when asked to put their team first by playing out of their preferred position, possibly affecting their draft value negatively, Highsmith willingly accepted the challenge and carried the defense to the best of his ability. Very admirable in my opinion. Reminds me of Terrell Edmunds collegiate experience in many ways actually, but I digress.
Highsmith's explosive first step and superior bend make him a natural edge player. Couple that with a non-stop motor and relentless pursuit and you have potentially a difference maker flying off the edge for the Steelers defense. Chad Brown was a eerily similar defender while in Pittsburgh.
The third round pick loves being a Pittsburgh Steeler and couldn't be happier to be in the Steel City. He realizes the huge step up in talent he is about to experience, and the enhanced difficulty all rookies will have to endure due to the loss of practice time and preseason games because of COVID-19. But no worries, Highsmith has faced long odds and difficulties before, only to emerge triumphant in the end.
Alex Highsmith has shown a tendency to excel on the football field regardless of position, to get the job done even against the most gifted opponents. Chad Brown was the same type of player during his tenure in the NFL. If only the Steelers could be so lucky and catch lightning in a bottle yet again with Highsmith.