Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith’s first NFL season just got more stressful.
Highsmith, a third-round pick from the University of Charlotte, is already playing on a Steelers team that entered Week 13 with a perfect 11-0 record.
If that wasn’t stressful enough, Highsmith is expected to make his first start in Week 13. Standout outside linebacker Bud Dupree will miss the rest of this season with a knee injury, elevating Highsmith up the depth chart.
Highsmith is used to challenging situations, though. Long before he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, Highsmith was an infant actor.
Alex Highsmith is a rookie linebacker
Alex Highsmith had encountered his fair share of adversity before reaching the NFL.
Highsmith enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte — which had just entered Conference USA — and joined the football team as a walk-on in 2015. Two years later, Highsmith earned a scholarship and helped lay the framework for Charlotte’s turnaround under Will Healy in 2019.
In four years at Charlotte, Highsmith totaled 20 sacks, 46 tackles for a loss, and forced three fumbles.
The Pittsburgh Steelers invested a third-round pick on Highsmith, who attended the NFL combine earlier this year, in April. Highsmith totaled 20 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack, and a 2-yard interception of Ravens star Lamar Jackson in his first 11 games.
Highsmith was an infant actor
From former running back Thomas Jones to Jets quarterback Joe Namath, the NFL is no stranger to players pursuing acting careers.
Few, however, have appeared in movies or TV shows before reaching the league. Former Colts receiver Chester Rogers participated in several movies as a child before pivoting to football.
Alex Highsmith is in a category of his own, however. As a baby, Highsmith appeared in Dawson’s Creek, the late-1990s drama starring James Van Der Beek and Katie Holmes.
Highsmith’s father, Sam, tweeted a picture in April featuring two still shots of Holmes holding his son. Highsmith appeared in a season one episode titled “Baby,” where he played the baby that Holmes’ sister gave birth to.
Interestingly, the baby was also named Alexander. The episode debuted on Feb. 24, 1998, over six months after Highsmith was born.
Alex Highsmith’s rookie season just got more challenging
Alex Highsmith is about to go from infant actor to starting NFL linebacker.
Veteran linebacker Bud Dupree, who had eight sacks in 11 games this year, suffered a torn ACL in Week 12. Dupree is out for the rest of this season.
Enter Highsmith, who has seen his defensive snaps climb throughout the season. Although he has only played 20% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps in 2020, Highsmith has reached or topped that mark in four of the Steelers’ last five games.
Barring an epic collapse, the 11-0 Steelers will almost certainly find themselves in the postseason next month. Whether or not they go undefeated, however, is another story.
Pittsburgh faces winning teams in three of their final five games, including a Week 14 showdown with Josh Allen and the Bills on Sunday Night Football.
Highsmith will get his first start — or at least, his initial game with substantial playing time — against Alex Smith and the Washington Football Team on Monday, December 7.