3 reasons why Steelers made a great decision extending Alex Highsmith

  • Steelers defensive core is solidified for the future
  • This wasn't an overpay like some fans believe

Pittsburgh Steelers, Alex Highsmith
Pittsburgh Steelers, Alex Highsmith / Gaelen Morse/GettyImages
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For the Steelers, Wednesday morning was an eventful one, giving Steelers fans something to get excited about for the first time in a while as the dog days of summer continue to drag on. News broke that the Steelers and pass rusher Alex Highsmith agreed upon a four-year 68 million-dollar contract extension. This move ties Highsmith to the team for the next four seasons beyond 2023.

Highsmith was able to cash in after a season that showed him taking great strides, filling in as the Steelers' premier pass rusher during the absence of TJ Watt for nearly half of the season. Since being selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, the former Charlotte 49er has proved he belongs in this league. Not only that, but Highsmith is one of the league's best pass rushers after a career year in 2022. Here's why this deal makes sense:

Alex Highsmith will enter his prime during this contract

Omar Khan and the Steelers front office struck up this deal at the perfect time. There was zero sense in waiting until next year to extend Highsmith. Had they waited, players like Washington's Montez Sweat, Carolina's Brian Burns, and San Francisco's Nick Bosa would all be extension-ready and demanding top-of-the-market deals at the edge position.

The Steelers' decision to not let Highsmith play out the last year of his rookie contract was right. Through his first three seasons, the fourth-year edge rusher has shown exponential growth by recording career highs in each major pass rush category year after year. With 14.5 sacks in 2022, Highsmith more than doubled his 2021 output. Should he put up another year of double-digit sacks in 2023, his price would skyrocket, likely resulting in a franchise tag from the Steelers and then a brisk walk into free agency the following offseason.

This August Highsmith will turn 26 years old, which will likely be the beginning of his prime as it is for many pass rushers. Locking up a talented young defender through his best years can do wonders for a team both on and off the field, and with a young quarterback at the helm, the Steelers will need all the talent they can get on defense to make Kenny Pickett's life easier.