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Alex Highsmith had an impressive rookie campaign in 2020, especially with making the jump from Charlotte to the NFL, which isn't an easy task. Before the season even started, Mike Tomlin expected the third-round pick to contribute right from the beginning.
"Before the season started, Coach (Mike) Tomlin called me and said here is what we expect of you," Highsmith told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "I knew I was going to be out there that first game on the field, playing special teams and backing up T.J. and Bud. It was awesome. It was a surreal feeling to run out there, and even though there were no fans, to play on Monday Night Football for my first game was awesome."
Highsmith played in all 16 games in 2020, starting five. He finished the season with 48 tackles, 30 of them being solos, two sacks, an interception and a pass defense.
He recorded his first NFL sack in Week 9 against the Cowboys, a week after he picked off the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson in the beginning of the third quarter that jump started the Steelers' comeback win over Baltimore. It was Highsmith's first career interception.
"It was awesome getting the first sack," Highsmith said. "There is no greater feeling in football than getting a sack in my opinion. You know you have beaten the one man in front of you. That is what it is, beating another man one-on-one and getting the sack. It's a great feeling. It's hard to describe. It's cool, but it can't last long. You have to move on to the next play when it happens. It's a short-lived feeling, but it's good. I would have never thought I would get my fist pick before my first sack. I don't think I have had an interception since Pop Warner football. It's been a long, long time since I have had an interception.
"But that first sack was awesome. I wish I could have gotten it sooner. I was close the first six or seven games, but it finally hit home against the Cowboys."
Highsmith told Varley that he's looking to get more sacks in 2021, because that's the key thing when it comes to being a pass-rusher.
"That is what I am working on this year, just to get my body right by working on my craft and the little things it's going to take to not just get hits, but get sacks, because sacks are what matters most. It's going to take the work to get them next year."
Highsmith is training in the Lake Norman, N.C. area at a facility to prepare himself for the 2021 season.
"I feel good," Highsmith said. "I am excited about continuing this process and keep on working. I want to get stronger and faster. I want to gain a few pounds, but not too much. Mainly get stronger and faster. For me, I have to do what I can day in and day out to be the best I can be. I have to be stronger and faster to be more productive and that is the goal for me over the next couple of months."