UNITY TWP., Pa — Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Steelers first-round pick Broderick Jones is viewed as a key piece for the team’s future. So, the team gave Chuks Okorafor the day off on Sunday and elevated Jones up to the first team for the day at left tackle, giving him a huge opportunity.
That gave him a chance to see Alex Highsmith for the first time during training camp. It went about as well as you would expect for a rookie seeing a guy who got 14.5 sacks last season and was just paid $68 million on a huge contract extension in the NFL. Jones struggled, but stuff like that can make him better.
Jones had some nice reps throughout practice but some plays where he looked flat-out silly. Most of those reps where he looked silly were against Highsmith. He is learning that athleticism can not take him all the way to the promised land in the NFL. He has upside, but Highsmith’s ghost move got him today. It’s his first time experiencing it. So, some early struggles are noted.
For facing Markus Golden most of the camp, Jones has done well for himself without the pads on. But Highsmith took him to another level. The technique at the NFL level is something that Jones is realizing is a difference-maker. Offensive line coach Pat Meyer is working on his hand placement and footwork.
“I want to get everything down in sync,” Jones said. “You know, footwork, punch timing, hand placement, the whole thing.”
That’s the right mentality to have. Facing Highsmith and T.J. Watt on any day will give Broderick Jones more learning than just about anything else could at this stage in his career. He was on the rawer side coming out of Georgia as a pass protector, and his growth could be accelerated by the tests of Highsmith and Watt.