After all the hoopla surrounding the 2015 NFL Draft with the mocks predicting either Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters to Pittsburgh, and once again, the prognosticators can take them and toss them to the wind. Seemingly every year in the first round, the Steelers end up with a prospect out of left field, one that nobody ever saw being available to them fall right into their laps. Their last several first rounders have been proof, with David DeCastro, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree from 2012 through 2015, respectively. Say what you will about Shazier and how some pundits argue the team reached for him, but it’s also said that Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys were dialing him up just as the Steelers were making the pick.
As rookie minicamp kicked off Friday. one notable figure missing was Dupree, due to his graduation obligations. As he walked the stage at Kentucky’s graduation Saturday, a large Pittsburgh decal adorned his cap. Graduating college wasn’t just a big deal to him, it was a big deal to his mother, Sophia Stephens. He earned his degree in community and leadership development, and is now ready to put his hard hat on, punch the time clock and get to work with his teammates.
“My mom wanted to see me graduate so I made her happy,” Dupree said, according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “She was very proud. I am the first one to graduate in my immediate family so it was a great experience.”
After such a long day of celebration on Saturday, he admits his first practice Sunday was tiring, but that’s part of being a professional. He was seen virtually in outside linebackers coach Joey Porter’s shadow all practice long, picking the brain of the four-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker and soaking up as much information as he can.
“It was tough going right out there after missing a few, but like everything, you just have to push it under the rug and keep on moving,” he said, according to Varley. “I think I did all right. I have a lot to improve on, but it was a good start.”
With so much attention on Dupree, it’s allowing ’13 first rounder Jones to step out of the limelight and avoid much of the scrutiny and criticism that’s came about as a result of his play in his first two seasons. However, with two sacks in three games last year, and with Dupree being viewed as a double-digit sacker in his own right, the 2015 Steelers look to vastly improve on their atrocious sack numbers from last season.
“I thought Jarvis was playing good last year until he got hurt,” Porter said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So it doesn’t bother me on how it ended last year with Jarvis. I still think he is one of the better linebackers in the league and he will be that. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
One thing is for certain, and that’s the linebacking corps will boast the finest pedigree in the entire league, sporting 4 first round picks. With two “coaches” who know what it takes to get the job done in Porter and veteran James Harrison, if anyone can unlock the beast from within these guys, it’s those two.
“Coach Porter is a great coach to be around,” said Dupree, according to Varley. “He taught me a lot already. The way they use the outside linebackers is great. They get a chance to make plays and I am excited about that. I still have a lot to work on and I plan on doing that.”