Steelers gaining loads of confidence in OLB Alex Highsmith

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56). Mandatory credit: Caitlyn Epes-Pittsburgh Steelers/handout photo-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56). Mandatory credit: Caitlyn Epes-Pittsburgh Steelers/handout photo-USA TODAY Sports /

Though he may only be a former third-round pick, the Steelers have gained a lot of trust in rookie OLB, Alex Highsmith.

Who would have thought that in such an unusual year, the Steelers rookies would have contributed in such a large fashion? Wide receiver Chase Claypool has been one of the surprise players of the draft after a dominant four-touchdown performance in Week 5, while offensive guard Kevin Dotson was thoroughly impressive when asked to fill in for an injured David DeCastro.

With the Steelers having a limited offseason that included surrounding all five of their scheduled preseason games this year, I wouldn’t have guessed that their rookies would have received as much playing time as they have earned so far. One of the rookies that is most surprising is outside linebacker, Alex Highsmith.

Highsmith was a small-school product that some draft experts believed was taken a bit high when the Steelers reached out to select him in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. While the Charlotte product was thoroughly productive against the small-school competition, many thought it would take years for that to translate to the NFL.

It turns out that it doesn’t. Not even halfway through his rookie season, Highsmith has made his presence felt on one of the best defenses in the National Football League, and there is plenty of reason to believe that trend is only going to continue to climb upward.

Why Highsmith has earned the trust of the Steelers

The Steelers have two legitimate studs lining the edge of the defensive line. Bud Dupree is having the best season of his NFL career by a mile, while T.J. Watt could very well earn Defensive Player of the Year honors after a dominant 2020 season. In addition, both players are set to become two of the highest-paid edge defenders in the league very soon.

However, Despite their combined success this year, Highsmith is still carving himself a sizeable role on defense. Though veteran Ola Adeniyi kicked the year off as the first outside linebacker off the bench for the Steelers, it has been all Highsmith since then.

From Week 2 until now, Highsmith has out-snapped Adeniyi 73-27 on defense, according to Pro Football Reference – a remarkable difference. What’s even more impressive is that these numbers are continuing to climb. Last week, Highsmith earned 25 defensive snaps while Adeniyi didn’t see the field on defense. During this time, Highsmith was able to record 2 tackles and an interception against Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson.

Clearly, Highsmith is way above schedule at this point, and he’s out to prove why he would be trusted as the starting right outside linebacker when Bud Dupree hits the market this coming offseason. The continual increase in snaps shows just how much confidence Steelers coaches have in the kid out of Charlotte.

Related Story. 4 free agent defensive tackles the Steelers should call right away. light

It’s certainly hard to be disappointed with the way Highsmith has played in the early going, and there is no evidence to suggest he won’t continue to get better. It will be interesting to see what type of role he will carve for Pittsburgh as the season goes on.