The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Alex Highsmith in the 2020 draft at pick number 56. They knew that Bud Dupree could probably walk in the offseason of 2021. They were right. Bud Dupree has decided to sign with the Titans this offseason and now the next man up should be Alex Highsmith unless the Steelers decide to take a premier edge rusher in the 2021 NFL draft, but their needs on the offensive line and running back positions will likely prevent them from doing that.
Alex Highsmith did much better than Bud Dupree did walking into his rookie season with the Steelers. The problem is it took Bud Dupree quite a few seasons to develop into the way he has with the Steelers. It takes time to become a superstar with the Pittsburgh Steelers because you're learning their system and learning the way NFL players play the game of football at the professional level. Every football player takes time to develop at the Professional level. So it will be unusual for Highsmith to be thrown into the fire right away coming into his sophomore season, but the Steelers have no choice with Bud Dupree's departure in the offseason.
In Highsmith's first full game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he recorded 4 pressures, and 2 stops with no sacks. Pro Football Focus still graded him with a 76.2 grade. After the Steelers played the Giants Highsmith said he knew he belonged in the NFL level because he finally got the feeling of a real NFL game and it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.
Pro Football Focus also graded Alex Highsmith as the 2nd highest graded edge among rookies in December. That is very impressive because Highsmith was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers love their linebackers and they always seem to have a big eye on talent in regards to the linebacker position. Very seldom do they draft that position wrong.
Alex Highsmith's dad recently took to Twitter and said "All the criticism will only make him stronger. Look at the tape. Look at his career since high school. Alex Highsmith has improved EACH year. He will never stop working! The walk-on mentality is real! STOP DISRESPECTING Alex Highsmith." It seems his dad may have seen many of Yinz and Draft Analysts saying the Steelers should draft at the edge position throughout the offseason without giving Alex Highsmith much praise.
The Steelers have to get an edge position player in the 2021 draft or during free agency not to replace Alex Highsmith, but to give TJ Watt and Highsmith some rest. There is no way they both can play every single rep during every single game. I do believe as time goes on Alex Highsmith could become better than Bud Dupree. The reason I say that is because he is already excelling much faster at the NFL level than Dupree did. Be patient with Alex Highsmith because if he can stay healthy he can become a superstar in Pittsburgh.