The Pittsburgh Steelers may have found a natural replacement for edge rusher Bud Dupree in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did a great job of finding impact talent in the 2020 NFL Draft but not pick stood out more than edge rusher Alex Highsmith. The Steelers took Highsmith in the third round (102nd overall) and he has a chance to be a massive steal in the middle rounds.
Highsmith was an extremely productive college player, piling up 21.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks last season. He was a consistently disruptive force on the edge last season and his skill-set translates extremely well to the next level.
Highsmith is extremely quick off of the ball and powerful at the point of attack. He shows strong and quick hands as both a pass rusher and run defender. He can also create pressure around the edge and with a quick inside move.
While he lacks ideal length on the edge and is not the most explosive athlete, Highsmith is a tough and talented player who will provide value as both a run defender and pass rusher. He is an extremely well-rounded player who the Pittsburgh Steelers can count on to make an immediate impact at the next level.
Assuming health, the Steelers will not have to rely on Highsmith during the 2020 season. With T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree both back as the starting edge rushers, they have a solid foundation at the position. However, Dupree will be playing the 2020 season under the franchise tag, meaning he will hit free agency next offseason.
In an ideal world, the Steelers would see enough out of Highsmith to make Dupree expendable. Dupree has grown into a strong player for Pittsburgh on the edge, but they are unlikely to be able to pay both him and Watt over the long haul. Watt is one of the premier edge rushers in the entire NFL and the Steelers will do whatever it takes to keep him around. Dupree is a good player, but they are unlikely to make the same kind of investment in him.
Simply put, Highsmith is a talented edge rusher who has the overall skill-set to be a playmaker at the next level. Unless Dupree is absolutely dominant in 2020, the Pittsburgh Steelers should feel comfortable replacing him with the third-round rookie.