The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to decide whether or not to give Alex Highsmith an extension next offseason, and things may have gotten a bit more challenging.
Just before the 2022 NFL trade deadline, teams were more active making moves than we’ve ever seen them before, as a flurry of trades rushed to be finalized. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a record 10 trades were made on the day of the deadline. One of those trades involved the Miami Dolphins giving up a first-round pick and more for Broncos pass rusher, Bradley Chubb.
Though Chubb was a hot commodity coming out of college and was an early first-round pick, he hasn’t put up big numbers since his rookie season. In fact, Chubb has combined for just 14.0 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss over the past four seasons, according to ESPN stats.
Much of this had to do with injuries, but the league showed you how much they value pass rushers with moves like this. Not only did Miami give up an elite draft pick, but they also turned around and gave Chubb a $119 million contract extension that includes $63.2 million guaranteed. This gives him a new-money average of $23.8 million per season.
How does Chubb’s lucrative new deal affect the Pittsburgh Steelers? It’s really quite simple: they have an edge defender who will soon need a new contract, and Chubb’s deal could potentially have a role in dictating the market from here.
Steelers decision with Alex Highsmith is getting more difficult
I really like Alex Highsmith. He’s incredibly easy to root for, and I think he’s a quality number two edge defender. However, I don’t think that his skills are on par with Bradley Chubb when they are both healthy and playing at their best. Sadly, this doesn’t matter when agents are negotiating with teams.
What Highsmith’s agent is going to drive home is the fact that his client has better numbers all around than a player who just broke the bank for the Miami Dolphins. Now, this doesn’t mean that Highsmith is going to get what Chubb just got (he won’t), but this is where his party will begin contract discussions.
Since entering the league in 2020, Highsmith has 14.5 sacks, 27 tackles for a loss, and 3 forced fumbles, per ESPN. Each of these numbers is greater than Chubb has seen over this span. Though much of this is attributed to Highsmith’s ability to stay healthy and play a lot of snaps, it’s all the more reason that there could be a bidding war for him following the 2023 season.
While I do think that the Steelers edge rusher will obviously end up in a tax bracket below Bradley Chubb when it’s all said and done, he’s still going to earn excellent money, and Chubb’s new deal could very well play a factor in negotiations.
With T.J. Watt missing significant time with injuries dating back to his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2021 and with the team having virtually no depth at the position, the question becomes whether or not the Steelers will be willing to fork up great money for a number two pass rusher or if they will be forced to let him hit the market.
Taking Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft was obviously a success, but with the good, he has done on this team comes the bad. The young pass rusher is playing himself into a big new contract, and Pittsburgh may very well have to decide whether or not he will be here long term before the start of the 2023 season.