Camp will be the first look at some players geared towards a monumentally important season
Many are quick to think of Terrell Edmunds, Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson, and Justin Layne who are in a prove-it year due to their contract situation. But there are some other key contributors who need to step up their game if they want to be with the Steelers long-term. The guys I’m thinking of are Alex Highsmith, Kevin Dotson, and Chase Claypool. 2021 was supposed to be Alex Highsmith’s breakout year.
Yet, I failed to see much improvement if any in his play from 2020-2021. Furthermore, he is entering the 3rd year of his 4-year contract and we could see the Steelers look for a possible replacement for him in the 2023 draft. While Highsmith isn’t a bad player by any means, the edge position is the most important position on the Steelers’ defense.
Having two elite edge players on the field at the same time is something the Steelers haven’t really had since they won their last Super Bowl. With James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley both producing 10+ sacks. If Highsmith can’t show improvement in finishing his pass rushes he likely won’t be a long-term starter on this defense.
Kevin Dotson hasn’t put it all together either and truth be told if he doesn’t then the suddenly crowded interior line group will make him fairly expendable. Chase Claypool was nowhere near the player we thought he was going to be in 2021 and statistically he was worse in his second year than his rookie year. Considering his possible maturity concerns, and him playing for the best team in the league at drafting wide receivers, he really needs to step up before he finds himself in a similar position to James Washington just a season ago.
All 3 of these players are from the 2020 draft class, none of them have a 5th-year option due to not being first-round picks and they are all entering their 3rd season. One in which they are expected to be starters even though they did not live up to expectations in 2021. There will be a lot to take in at training camp this year and I for one can’t wait.