Alex Highsmith’s draft weekend trip to Mexico wasn’t just about drinking tequila and eating authentic Mexican food (though to be clear, it was also about that). Invited south of the border in late April, Highsmith hung out with former Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, spending a couple days going on tours, running a flag football tournament, and announcing the team’s fourth round pick who turned out to be Nick Herbig.
But Highsmith took advantage of the chance to spend time with Woodley, a great Steelers’ pass rusher in his prime, to pick his brain and learn everything possible that he could apply to his game in 2023.
Sitting down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Highsmith said he turned a leisure trip into a little bit of football business, too.
“I just asked him about his time and how to approach different things,” Highsmith told Matthews. “Because he’s a legend himself. It was really cool to meet him.”
Woodley was one of Mike Tomlin’s first selections, a second round pick in 2007. Similar to Highsmith, he made a bit of a transition, going from true defensive end to stand-up linebacker after getting picked (Highsmith went from base DE to OLB in college). By 2008, Woodley wasn’t just a starter but a star, registering 11.5 sacks his sophomore season. From 2008 to 2010, Woodley recorded double-digit sacks each season, making the 2009 Pro Bowl with a 20 TFL, 13.5 sack season.
It earned him the payday Highsmith is on track for, likely soon to receive a multi-year extension, though issues with Woodley’s weight and soft tissue injuries saw him quickly exit the league.
Still, for a time, Woodley made up one of the top NFL pass rush tandems in football opposite of James Harrison. A decade later and it’s a similar story with T.J. Watt and Highsmith.
“Just trying to pick his brain on different techniques he liked to use back in his day,” Highsmith said.
Highsmith will look to stack big seasons himself this season. He’s coming off a 14.5 sack campaign, the breakout star of the 2022 season. But every NFL team knows what he’s about and some began adjusting well to him late last season, defending his inside spin more effectively compared to the first twelve games of the year. But Highsmith has gotten to his point thanks to his hard work and he’s never one to turn down the opportunity to learn from those before him. Even during his vacations to Mexico.