Yesterday, it was announced that rookie first-round draft pick Bud Dupree was named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Joe Greene Great Performance Award, which annually goes to the team’s top-performing rookie for that season.
But it wasn’t really close, and the fact of the matter is that that wasn’t really even saying all that much. Considering only one other rookie has received much playing time at all outside of special teams, that being fifth-round tight end Jesse James, there wasn’t much competition.
The only other rookies to have contributed a notable amount have been sixth-rounders Anthony Chickillo and L.T. Walton, the former of whom spent the early portions of the season on the practice squad, with the latter seeing the inactive list for the second half of the season.
Several weeks ago, Dupree was ‘promoted’ to the starting lineup ahead of Arthur Moats, which is a largely symbolic gesture that actually just so happens to, more often than not, correlate to a slightly lower snap count in games.
Dupree ranks fourth on the team with four sacks, but he has not recorded one in some time, the most recent quarterback take down coming in Week Eight. He had a sack in each of his first two games, and another in Week Five, but he has struggled to get into the backfield since.
The outside linebacker has admitted himself that he has physically hit the proverbial rookie wall, which is understandable, considering Steelers defensive rookies are not even accustomed to logging much meaningful playing time.
Since the bye week five games ago, Dupree has only totaled exactly five tackles, one in each game, with only two solo or primary tackles among them. He has only registered multiple tackles in six of 15 games played, which includes the first five games of the season. Since then, he has only recorded one multiple-tackle game.
This is not to say that there is anything to worry about regarding the 22-year-old’s future. It was expected that he would have a learning curve to adjust to, both physically and mentally. The most important aspect of his rookie season is that he has not contributed many glaring mistakes on the field, which is partly why he has been rewarded with so much playing time in the first place.
This fact makes the Steelers’ outside linebacker rotation only that much more valuable, given that they do not have to depend upon any one or two players to be a consistent contributor, as long as one of the four is able to produce on some level. Dupree has not yet been that producer, but perhaps we will begin to see some of that next year, which is more on pace for the typical Steelers rookie defender.
And perhaps we will see more of some of Pittsburgh’s other rookie selections, chief among them second-round cornerback Senquez Golson, who has spent the entire year on injured reserve, not even able to participate in training camp. One would imagine that they would like to see Sammie Coates contributing as well. James, Chickillo, Walton, and Doran Grant could all be taking on bigger roles a year from now.