The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? How might they tackle the 2023 NFL Draft? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: Will Alex Highsmith’s extension timeline look more like Minkah Fitzpatrick’s or T.J. Watt’s?
Omar Khan has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager for a little over a year or so. He was former general manager Kevin Colbert’s contract guy, as his main job that brought him recognition, but the responsibilities have shifted since then, and he doesn’t directly handle contracts as often.
Historically, most of the Steelers’ major contract extensions got done in training camp under Colbert. But they did lock in Minkah Fitzpatrick last year around this time, so that begs the question: was that a sign of a change in strategy or just a one-off situation where the team and the player and his representation aligned on what they considered a fair deal?
This is an especially relevant question to ask now given that there is a key contract extension that needs to be worked out this offseason for outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. The fourth-year veteran is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is coming off a Pro Bowl-level season.
But Pittsburgh is already paying T.J. Watt top dollar at the position. How much does that matter? Well, they paid James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley at the same time, so there is precedent here, and they see how much better things work when they have two strong pass rushers on the edge instead of one.
Still, they’re not going to pay Highsmith at the top of the market. What will his demands be? How high would the team be willing to go? Where is the point of compromise—and most importantly, how long will it take for them to find that point? Could we see a deal done by the end of minicamp? Or will we be beating down the door of the regular season by the time the situation is resolved?