The biggest unknown heading into the first day of Steelers OTAs Tuesday was if Alex Highsmith would be in attendance.
To Highsmith, however, that never seemed to be a question.
“I’m someone who always likes to work,” he said. “I love working. So that’s why I’m here.”
The outside linebacker is awaiting a new contract as he enters the final year of his rookie contract — a deal he has exceeded with strong play opposite TJ Watt.
“I don’t really know where things stand,” Highsmith said of contract talks. “But I want to be here working. I’m just grateful for the opportunity that I have. I don’t know what the future holds, but I really hope it’s here. I’m confident that something gets worked out. I really want to be here.”
Highsmith is coming off a career high 14.5 sacks in 2022. Spotrac estimates his market value at 4 years, $55.6 million.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “I love being here around the guys. I’m just grateful to even be in this position. It’s still surreal, going into my fourth year now. It seems like just yesterday that I got drafted during covid. It’s just a good feeling and I’m grateful to be here.
“Things have started, I just don’t know where it is yet. I’m just here to work right now.”
Gratefulness aside, some view Highsmith’s attendance at OTAs as a risk. Others in his situation in recent years — and the Steelers have had several cases — have elected to sit out of the voluntary OTAs, and have even opted out of some drills in mandatory minicamps and training camps.
“I’ve talked with some guys who have gone through this same situation in the past,” he said. “I’m just going to talk to my agent, as well. I know that things will end up working out.”
As for if he wants to be heavily involved in the negotiations, or if he wants that to stay between his agent and Steelers management?
“I’ll be involved a little bit,” he said. “Of course I want to know what’s happening. But I’m confident in them.”
Working in favor of Highsmith is a lack of depth or talent at his position. Of course, the Steelers have Watt — who was not present at Tuesday’s OTAs. But, beyond that, the outside linebacker group is extremely thin.
Highsmith has now morphed into more of a leadership role, and is a relied on player. He’s made it clear he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers should want to keep him around, if the money makes sense.
Until then, however, he’s just ready to ball.
“We’re just excited for what we have,” he said. “Seeing everyone back is a good feeling. It’s good to be back at work.”