With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Bud Dupree.
He showed a little bit last season, particularly as it pertains to sheer athletic ability. In particular, there were several occasions in which rookie Bud Dupree displayed his impressive characteristic first step that helped him win particular snaps, and even a sack or two, if my memory serves me well.
But the Steelers have much bigger plans for Dupree than what would be suggested by the faint glimmers of talent that he displayed during his rookie season, and that means that he is going to be counted upon to show quite a bit entering his second season as he looks to become a cornerstone member of the defense that solidifies itself as a top unit, joining other young players such as Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt.
Dupree’s emergence might well be particularly important, however, simply due to the fact that the position he plays is so tremendously important. The simple fact of the matter, in addition, is that the Steelers have lacked an elite pass rusher for about a half of a decade by now, even if they managed to boost their sack count to near 50 by piecemeal contribution a year ago.
The former first-round draft pick showed last year that he certainly has a number of gifts, much of them sheer physical in nature. He has a nearly ideal size and physique for the position, particularly for a 3-4 team that spends a great deal of time in sub-packages, and he is incredibly athletic and pretty fast for an outside linebacker.
But he is far from a finished product at this point, and in particular, he has to show that he has a much better understanding of how to piece together a repertoire of pass-rushing moves, something that he visibly lacked last season, most of his pressure coming from pure speed and hustle.
Dupree has a basic understanding of a few cornerstone pass-rushing staples, but he lacks the knowledge and experience of building move upon move in order to out-maneuver an opposing offensive lineman. I do believe that he has the physical ability and the mental capacity to grow into that, but it is imperative for both the short-term and long-term future of the Steelers’ defense that he does.