Steelers show why you don’t need a first-round pick to have a good draft

Chase Claypool #11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Chase Claypool #11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56). Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

EDGE Alex Highsmith

Even at the time, he was selected by the Steelers, there were many NFL Draft analysts who thought that Alex Highsmith may have been taken a round two soon. Boy, were they ever wrong. It’s not always easy to project how a small-school player will make the transition to the NFL stage, but we couldn’t have asked for a smoother start to Highsmith’s career in Pittsburgh.

As a 0-star, walk-on player at Charlotte, Highsmith fought tooth and nail to get to where he is right now, and nobody is more deserving of the playing time they’ve earned than him. While the rookie edge defender essentially filled in for the injured Bud Dupree by default, he was having an impressive rookie season up to that point. Remarkably, he didn’t disappoint under the spotlight, as he was arguably even better as a full-time starter.

Highsmith has an impressive combination of speed, power, and bend to go with an array of pass rush moves that are beyond his years. While he may have just been a third-round draft choice, he graded out as the third-best rookie defender from the 2020 NFL Draft by the end of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. In addition, his 72.0 overall grade was one of the best on the league’s top defense. In a re-draft, Alex Highsmith undoubtedly goes at least a round higher.