Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree had an eventful rookie season last year as a first-round draft pick. He logged quite a bit of snaps in a rotation on the left side of the defense and ultimately moved into the starting lineup by the end of the season, though that didn’t meaningfully change his snap count.
Though his numbers from a purely statistical standpoint were far from terrible for the amount of snaps that he played—26 tackles, four sacks, and a pass defensed—many are still wondering just what sort of player he will become, and, really, what sort of player he actually was last year.
Dupree spoke even during the regular season last year that toward the end of the season he was feeling the toll of the workload on his body, talking about a rookie wall and how it affected his performance. The rookie wall is called that for a reason, after all. Incoming college athletes are not exposed to the duration or intensity of competition that they see at the professional level.
A basic statistical glimpse at his season would certainly suggest that something happened. In his first 10 games, leading into the Steelers’ bye week Dupree recorded 19 tackles, averaging just under two tackles per game, and all four of his sacks came in the first eight weeks, with three coming in the first five.
Following the bye week in the final six games of the regular season, however, he recorded a total of just seven tackles, three of them being assists, and no other statistics. In the two postseason games, on the other hand, he tied his season-high in three total tackles in each game.
Pro Football Focus also observed the same thing, noting that, while even the first half of his rookie season graded out a bit poorly in their data, the second half of the season was certainly worse, both in terms of his run defense and his pass rush.
But he actually earned a mildly positive grade of 0.4 collectively for his two postseason games from them, the bulk of which came from his work in the run game, registering six stops in the two games. his rush snaps per pressure was also notably better than in the regular season, but still below average.
Take that for what it’s worth, because I rewatched the Denver game in particular in the playoffs and saw Dupree mostly a non-presence, in a game in which Arthur Moats was already mostly absent due to injury, meaning Dupree had to take most of the snaps. Dupree’s 0.4 grade is, however, attributed to the Bengals game, earning a 0.0 grade in Denver.
The site’s broader concern has not been, of course, whether or not his performance slumped, but whether or not it was ever even particularly good in the first place, and in their grading, it wasn’t. Dupree was never a draft pick that they were a fan of in the first place, however.
From my point of view, I do believe that we saw an observable decline in play in the second half of the season. During the two postseason games, I believe that he played largely mistake-free, but also largely impact-free, and I have to hope that the lack of impact was largely a product of him running on fumes by the end of the year while trying not to blow his assignments.