clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Alex Highsmith motivated by NFL Draft experts suggesting the Steelers take an OLB

The Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher has used some NFL Draft talk to motivate himself heading into his sophomore season.

NFL: Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping their small, but significant, 2020 NFL Draft class will continue to transform the team in their second year as professionals. The team’s top three draft picks, Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith and Kevin Dotson, will all be starters in 2021, and expectations couldn’t be higher.

When it comes to filling the shoes of their predecessor, Highsmith has the biggest shoes to fill. Bud Dupree might not have been the dominant player most expected, but by the end of his time in Pittsburgh he had put together a very solid career. A career which saw him paid handsomely for his efforts in free agency by the Tennessee Titans.

Unlike Claypool, who took the NFL by storm, Highsmith is still carving out his own niche within the Steelers organization, and the NFL. Not being considered a known commodity yet, many NFL Draft experts suggested the Steelers take a pass rusher early in the 2021 NFL Draft. Some even had the Steelers taking an EDGE/OLB with their top pick.

Highsmith heard/read these comments, and didn’t hang his head and sulk. Instead, he used it as motivation. Motivation to prove the doubters wrong.

“I did see some reports about that,” Highsmith told reports after Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Wednesday. “That gave me more motivation, just be the best that I can be, continue to work harder. I think it shows they have faith in me to come in and earn the spot and role. It gave me more motivation to work harder.”

The faith Highsmith speaks of is the fact the Steelers did not draft a pass rusher until the 6th round when they took Quincy Roche out of the University of Miami. Taking a pass rusher early would have been a shot across the bow for Highsmith and his overall potential within the Steelers organization.

But he realizes the situation he has ahead of him. The ability to make plays the same way Dupree did in years prior.

“I feel like when the opportunity is presented to me, I have to take advantage. That is something I have been working for this offseason and I am going to continue working for the last couple of months of this offseason. It’s exciting. I am ready for the challenge.”

Players like Highsmith have a very high intelligence when it comes to their approach to the game. They are constantly evaluating and thinking of ways to improve their craft. With that said, what does Highsmith see as something he can work on as he approaches the 2021 season as a starter?

“I feel like I can always just continue to work on my mental game, study more film and just have the best IQ I can have,” said Highsmith. “One thing I came into this offseason wanting to do was get stronger, gain a few pounds, just put on a lot of muscle. I feel like I have done that. I feel like I have gotten stronger. Just be strong in the run game, strong in pass rush. Also, just polishing my moves. I feel like it’s been a great offseason so far. I am ready for people to see all that I have been working on.”

Highsmith weighed about 250 lbs. his rookie season, and said he is fluctuating around 253-254 lbs. entering OTAs. Not a huge difference, but putting on just three pounds usually indicates putting on the right kind of weight. Those pounds are muscle.

“It’s a good three pounds,” said Highsmith. “I am trying to maintain that going to camp this season. I am just coming in with the expectation, the mindset to be the best that I can be. I am coming in stepping into this role. I am excited and blessed to have this opportunity and I just know I have to go in and make the most of it.

“I feel like when the opportunity is presented to me, I have to take advantage. That is something I have been working for this offseason and I am going to continue working for the last couple of months of this offseason. It’s exciting. I am ready for the challenge.”

The Steelers have led the league in sacks the last three seasons, and they will need Highsmith to produce if they want that to turn into four years. At their pinnacle, Dupree was good enough to take pressure off T.J. Watt. Defenses couldn’t sell out to stop one of them, and this is what happened when Dupree tore his ACL in the waning weeks of the 2020 season. It will be up to Highsmith to pose enough of a threat to allow Watt to roam, as he did with Dupree.

It won’t be easy, but if anyone has proven the doubters wrong it would be Highsmith. After all, he was a walk-on at Charlotte, and turned that into an NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.