Steelers extension for Alex Highsmith is looking better by the minute

  • Uchenna Nwosu just got paid
  • Highsmith contract details

Uchenna Nwosu, Steelers
Uchenna Nwosu, Steelers / Jane Gershovich/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers made Alex Highsmith a very rich man just days before training camp. Omar Khan has shown that he's not a fan of lingering contract negotiations, and he didn't want to run into a situation where one of his best players remained unsigned heading into the 2023 season.

For this reason, Pittsburgh was able to ink Highsmith to a new four-year extension. But it didn't come without a cost. With $68 million in new money, the former college walk-on from Charlotte is now making $17 million per year in new money on average. This tied him for 10th in the NFL among edge defenders.

Highsmith's lofty new extension raised concerns among many Steelers fans. While we all love the player and can agree that Pittsburgh knocked it out of the park with their third-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, many fans weren't on board with how much money he received. These concerns are understandable, but with each passing minute, fans should be starting to come around to this new deal.

Highsmith looks like a bargain compared to Uchenna Nwosu

Just days after Highsmith was made a very rich man, the Seattle Seahawks broke the bank with Uchenna Nwosu. The former Chargers pass rusher signed a two-year deal with Seattle during the 2022 offseason. One year later, he earned a three-year, $59 million extension.

This deal comes just days after Alex Highsmith inked his contract extension. Nwosu will now earn up to $19.6 million in new annual money. Not only is this more expensive than Highsmith's deal, but you could argue that Nwosu is a much lesser football player.

In addition to being older than Highsmith (Nwosu was a member of the 2018 NFL Draft), the Seahawks pass rusher was significantly less productive last year. Uchenna started and played all 17 games for Seattle in 2022, but earned just 9.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his fifth NFL season, per Pro Football Reference. Highsmith, on the other hand, recorded 14.5 sacks and led the league with 5 forced fumbles in only his third NFL season at the age of 25.

In addition to being more productive last year, Highsmith graded out as the better football player in 2022. According to Pro Football Focus, Highsmith's 78.0 overall grade was good for 24th in the NFL among all edge defenders. On the other hand, Nwosu's 72.6 overall grade was good for 35th at the position. These two players had remarkably similar grades in the two prior seasons despite Nwosu having two more years of experience.

Steelers were wise to pay Alex Highsmith early

Because the Steelers were able to ink their deal first, they actually saved money compared to how the market would have shaped out. Had Nwosu been paid first, Highsmith's agent would have had a legitimate gripe for more money, considering he is younger and more productive.

New deals at the edge defender position are soon to follow, and it won't be long until it looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers actually got a bargain with Alex Highsmith. Highsmith is entering the prime of his NFL career and will be 26 in 2023. A healthy T.J. Watt alongside him could help him have the best season of his NFL career.

While I understand that fans wanted Highsmith's per year average to come in a bit cheaper, the Steelers were actually wise to get an extension done when they did. Uchenna Nwosu may have been the first edge defender to leapfrog Alex Highsmith in new annual earnings, but he certainly won't be the last.