The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Bud Dupree
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 1 Year
When outside linebacker Bud Dupree slipped to the 24th slot in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Steelers did not hesitate to draft him, ignoring the fact that it would mean that they’ve used their first-round draft pick in three straight seasons on a linebacker.
Dupree was in many ways the opposite evaluation of Jarvis Jones two years prior, who showcased a lot of production relative to scheme on his college tape, but had very mediocre measureables and physical traits, and the Steelers have since then gotten pretty close to what you might expect from a more reasoned evaluation than the one that made him a first-round draft pick.
Dupree, on the other hand, was not necessarily a dynamo on tape, a wrecking ball that routinely disrupted games with his overwhelming ability. His college production was sort of underwhelming, in fact, but what he does have is elite athletic ability to go along with some natural experience at the outside linebacker position.
The fact that he was a convert to the position in college after a mid-career scheme change, and the fact that he never had a true linebackers coach while there, was also an encouraging factor, but the main part of the ease of evaluation is the fact that he showed the ability to do everything that would be asked of him at the professional level, including dropping into coverage.
The Steelers trusted that the production would come with time, and that they would be able to play him as long as he was able to play within the scheme, and they did just that, with Dupree logging over 500 snaps during his rookie season, including moving into the starting lineup—though largely a nominal designation in the team’s rotation—by the end of the year.
Although he certainly flashed some, particularly early—he had two sacks in his first two games, and four by the midpoint of his rookie season—he also showed just how raw he is as a pass rusher, with a limited understanding of counter moves, which will be a major target area for improvement this offseason.
He also acknowledged toward the end of the year that he felt he hit a wall, which is common for rookies getting used to a 16-game schedule. But there is plenty of reason for optimism about his future as he moves into an even more significant role in year two. In contrast with Jones, at least with Dupree you know that he can win at times through sheer athleticism and speed.