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Three years ago, Alex Highsmith was a third-round draft pick who was looking to prove that be belonged at the next level. Now, Highsmith is one of the NFL's premier pass rushers who is in line for a hefty payday as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. 

While he awaits a new deal, Highsmith is taking part in the team's voluntary OTAs. He expressed optimism that things will work out regarding an extension with the Steelers. 

"I've talked with some guys who have gone through the same situation in the past," Highsmith said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm going to talk with my agent, as well. I know everything will work out. I want to be here."

Highsmith is due for a payday after having a breakout season in 2022. His 14.5 sacks last season tied for the fifth-highest single-season total in franchise history. Highsmith also recorded a league-best five forced fumbles while picking up the slack during T.J. Watt's seven-game absence. 

When asked about Highsmith earlier this offseason, Steelers general manager Omar Khan alluded to the Steelers wanting to keep him in Pittsburgh for the long haul. Highsmith's market value is projected at five years with an annual salary of $12.65 million. That's an absolute bargain considering that Watt makes more than twice that amount on an annual basis. 

"You guys know our history," Khan said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "When we have a young, up-and-coming player, we don't like to let those guys go."

Highsmith's impact in Pittsburgh was felt almost right away. He was thrust into Pittsburgh's starting lineup late in his rookie season when Bud Dupree went down with a season-ending injury. He played well that season while helping the Steelers capture an AFC North division crown. In 2021, Highsmith recorded six sacks while being a full-time starter for the first time. Prior to last season, Highsmith told CBS Sports during training camp that he has his sights set on a big season for himself and his team. 

"I want to hit that 10 to 12 sack range and even higher," Highsmith said. "Really just want to be the best that I can be to set this defense up to get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl." 

Highsmith topped his individual goals last season. As far as team goals are concerned, the Steelers are hoping to make noise in the playoffs this season after posting 9-win campaigns each of the last two years. The Steelers further bolstered their roster this week when they reportedly agreed to terms with former Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden on a one-year deal.