Much attention was paid to the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green was not yet cleared by the coaching staff to return to practice, although he reportedly was ‘cleared’ medically. Of course, it draws headlines when your $20 million free agent doesn’t see the field for the first half of his first season.
Green wasn’t the only injured player who was eligible to return to the practice field yesterday who failed to be able to do so, because second-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree, having spent all of the regular season on the injured reserve list with the designation for return available to him yesterday, was also able to return to practice.
Following the new rules pertaining to the injured reserve list that allow players to return, an eligible player who is on injured reserve can return to practice after he has been on the list for six weeks, and can be activated to the 53-man roster after eight weeks. So while we are obviously not talking about getting him back on the field for Sunday, it is still worth noting that he is not yet even on the field.
It’s still not entirely clear just what sort of timeframe for recovery that the Steelers are dealing with as it pertains to Dupree, who is supposed to be one of their starting outside linebackers, and, frankly, who was supposed to take a major leap forward in his game this season and become one of the impact players on defense, a group that Pittsburgh seems to be lacking.
Dupree missed quite a bit of the offseason dealing with injuries, and he did return for one preseason game, after which he concluded that he made a mistake by trying to return too early. He ended up getting set up for surgery for a core muscle issue, a sports hernia that the medical staff determined was not going to heal on its own, perhaps belatedly.
Although it’s not exactly clear what Dupree might be able to do once he gets back on the field, if he does get back on the field at all this season, it is clear that the Steelers certainly need help with their pass rush, both globally speaking and also specifically as it pertains to what is supposed to be their premium pass-rushing position, the outside linebacker spot, where they have been platooning four players.
The Steelers only have eight sacks thus far on the season, and only 2.5 have come from the outside linebacker position, although perhaps it is notable to some degree that all of them have come from the left spot, which is where Dupree plays.
It was only a week or so ago that Dupree posted a video of him working in a drill on social media, saying that he is making progress, but it would seem that he still has a way to go before he is able to return to the practice field, and even longer before he can be that impact player the Steelers thought they were drafting.