We’re still in the “offseason” phase of the year. A time to learn. For rookies to understand the playbook, for those who have been here before, an opportunity to master the little things.
From a veteran like Ben Roethlisberger to a second-year player in Bud Dupree, they’re all putting forth that effort.
“Going over some of the little nuance things,” he told reporters via Steelers.com after yesterday’s first day of minicamp. “Today in the first walkthrough, we were going over some very minute hand signal stuff. And what to do in certain situations. So to me, how can we start on some of the little things that will be big things when training camp comes around.”
No matter the age of experience of the group, hammering home those details is critical. And to get a jump on it, as Roethlisberger says, is only going to benefit the team in camp and during the season. Ingrain it in the player’s brains now and they’ll remember it when they’re exhausted in the 4th quarter of a critical game.
And when the internal expectations are high, 30 points a game, grasping those details and being able to execute them flawlessly is what will separate the great from historic offenses.
Two teams scored above the 30 point plateau last season. The Carolina Panthers’ 31.3 and the Arizona Cardinals’ 30.6. The Denver Broncos have the most points per game in the modern era, averaging 37.9 per game back in 2013.
Dupree is nowhere near the level of commanding the people around him, but he’s soaking in the details from the veterans who surround him as he looks to improve on his rookie year. Especially down the stretch, when he faded, hitting that dreaded rookie wall.
“My body just took a toll,” Dupree told the media. “But now I’m more prepared for that…just a lot of little minor things you need to do. Looking at guys like James Harrison, Shamarko [Thomas], those are two guys off the top of my head who really take care of their body. Le’Veon [Bell]. They do a good job. Just following the lead of those guys. Your body feels a lot fresher and you can do a lot more.”
Dupree’s struggles at the end were predictable, a physically demanding position stretched out over 18 weeks – plus an entire preseason – for someone who had never saw anything resembling that workload before. So doing something like learning to take care of your body is critical to maintain a high level of play throughout the year. Pittsburgh is going to need someone like Dupree to improve the paltry 15 sacks the outside linebacker group recorded last season.
For reference, when the team won the Super Bowl in 2008, they had 28.5 sacks from their OLBs. In their 2010 loss to Green Bay, they had 22.5. And in 2005, they had 23.5.