The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft class was lauded for many reasons, but none greater than their ability to all make it on the field as rookies. Some were thrust into starting roles, and third round pick Alex Highsmith was one of those players after Bud Dupree tore his ACL in the meeting with the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
Despite coming from a smaller school, Charlotte, Highsmith proved he belonged when he got the chance to be on the field. What started as a special teams player, and primary backup, ended with him starting opposite T.J. Watt for the Steelers’ final five games of the regular season.
Throughout his rookie season, Highsmith put up 48 tackles, 30 solo tackles, two sacks, an interception and a pass defense. If you thought his rookie season was good, Highsmith is telling fans to expect more in his sophomore season.
“That is what I am working on this year, just to get my body right by working on my craft and the little things it’s going to take to not just get hits, but get sacks, because sacks are what matters most. It’s going to take the work to get them next year.” Highsmith told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
“I felt like I grew throughout the season,” said Highsmith. “I am far from where I want to be. No matter how well I played, or how bad I played, I can always be better. I always want to have that mindset that I had a bad game whether I had three sacks or no sacks. I want to have the mindset to get better. The more I played, especially on the defensive side of the ball, the slower the game got. That is how it’s always been for me. Same thing with college. The more reps I played the slower it got. I am excited to keep growing and take that leap from year one to year two.”
From the first day Highsmith walked into the Steelers’ headquarters, he knew exactly what was going to be expected of him. Head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t hide what they wanted/needed from Highsmith in his rookie campaign.
“Before the season started, Coach (Mike) Tomlin called me and said here is what we expect of you,” recalled Highsmith. “I knew I was going to be out there that first game on the field, playing special teams and backing up T.J. and Bud. It was awesome. It was a surreal feeling to run out there, and even though there were no fans, to play on Monday Night Football for my first game was awesome.
“Being able to produce, help the team, it was a fun year. COIVD kind of messed it up, but I am still thankful for everything.”
There has to be a lot of pressure on Highsmith knowing he will be called upon to fill the shoes of Dupree in 2021, but if Highsmith has proved anything so far in his brief professional career, it is that he shouldn’t be counted out.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.