There was a stark contrast between the Steelers next two outside linebackers after T.J. Watt.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2023.
Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, we will pair a potential free agent with a first-year player as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.
Next up are outside linebackers Alex Highsmith and Malik Reed.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Years with the Steelers: 3
Years in the NFL: 3
Contract Status: Signed through 2023
Contract Details: $2,953,073 salary cap hit for 2023. Would cost the Steelers $208,073 in dead money if released and would save $2,745,000.
Games played in 2022: 17 regular season
Games started in 2022: 17 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 941 (defense), 48 (special teams)
PFF score: 78.0 (24th of 120)
Notable stats: Highsmith led to Steelers with 14.5 sacks and led the NFL with five forced fumbles in 2022. Highsmith had 63 tackles, 12 of which were for a loss, and a pass defensed.
Notes: In his third season in Pittsburgh, Alex Highsmith continued his trend of doubling his sack output from the previous season. Although much more successful with T.J. Watt in the lineup— only 3.5 sacks came in the seven games Watt missed— just being another threat opposite the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is all Steelers fans could ask for. Still under contract for one more season, the bigger question for 2023 with Highsmith will be if he’s playing on his last year of his rookie deal or if they come together and get a new contract done during the offseason.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 4
Contract Status: Free Agent
Contract Details: Contract expiring with no dead money.
Games played in 2022: 14 regular season
Games started in 2022: 2 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 396 (defense), 58 (special teams)
PFF score: 63.8 (72nd of 120)
Notable stats: Reed had 25 tackles, one of which was for loss, and 1.0 sacks with two passes defensed.
Notes: Over the Steelers last five games, Reed was a healthy scratch in three of them as the Steelers took on the run-heavy Baltimore Ravens twice as well as the Cleveland Browns. Going from the third option at outside linebacker to not even getting a helmet does not say a lot for Reed and the Steelers wanting to move this relationship forward. Most expect Reed to have played his last game in a Steelers uniform as he will want to move on to a different situation and Steelers look for somebody else as the reserve option for their two talented outside linebackers.
Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:
Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin
DeMarvin Leal & Larry Ogunjobi
Connor Heyward & Zach Gentry
Mark Robinson & Devin Bush
Jaylen Warren & Benny Snell Jr.
Calvin Austin III & Derek Watt
Najee Harris & Terrell Edmunds
Pat Freiermuth & Trent Scott
Dan Moore Jr. & Jesse Davis
Isaiahh Loudermilk & Chris Wormley
Tre Norwood & Damontae Kazee
Pressley Harvin III & Marcus Allen
Kendrick Green & J.C. Hassenauer