Should the Steelers extend Alex Highsmith?

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Alex Highsmith had a complete breakout in the 2022 season. In T.J. Watt's absence, Highsmith recorded 14.5 sacks; ranking 6th in the NFL. There was a lot of buzz around Alex Highsmith as a pro-bowl candidate, although he ended up not making the cut.

Former 3rd Round selection in 2020, Highsmith has totaled 22.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and an interception through three seasons as a pro. There has been steady improvement in his sack numbers from year-to-year. He recorded 2 sacks during his rookie year, 6 sacks in 2021, and 14.5 sacks this past season. At this rate, Highsmith is on the path to becoming one of the league's most dominant edge threats.

With his consistent increase in production, we can expect Alex Highsmith to have a similar year this year as he did in 2022. Highsmith benefits from having T.J. Watt on the field, being the main focus for offensive lines. Highsmith draws much more favorable matchups when he has Watt flying off of the other edge. If T.J. Watt can stay healthy, Highsmith will be a huge difference-maker again on an improved Steelers defensive line.

Is it worth it for the Steelers to extend Alex Highsmith?

Based on his breakout season last year, Mark Kaboly; a Steelers insider, projects Highsmith to receive anywhere from 17-18 million a year. Certainly, many other teams would be keen to sign Highsmith for this amount; but are the Steelers one of them?

Alex Highsmith would join the likes of Arik Armstead, Matthew Judon, and Harold Landry in Annual Average Salary if he received an extension of $18 million per year. This extension would make the Steelers edge tandem one of the highest-paid edge groups in the league. Highsmith would also be among the highest-paid second edge rushers on a team in the NFL.

The Steelers currently sit at $10,213,141 under the cap but are paying 3 large defensive contracts to T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. It could be very challenging to secure Alex Highsmith in a way that allows any room to add talent in other areas.

Next. Pittsburgh Steelers best moves of the 2023 offseason. dark

In order to have the money to surround Kenny Pickett with weapons, the Steelers are going to need to spend their money wisely on defense. Bringing back a top-tier edge rusher to be number 2 on the depth chart may not be the most efficient allocation of money and probably isn't in the best interest of future roster construction.