It started last week, but it seemed to really solidify yesterday. The Pittsburgh Steelers think that they have their two pass rushers going forward—at least for the rest of the season. James Harrison and Bud Dupree logged very nearly every defensive snap for the Steelers yesterday against the Bills as a tandem, and, at least statistically, the second-year former first-round draft pick stood out, recording five tackles and his first two sacks of the season.
While this was technically Dupree’s fourth game of the season since being activated from the injured reserve list, it was really only the third in which he logged what could be construed as a meaningful number of snaps, and this was his first start of the year.
The Steelers are counting on Dupree to become their next star outside linebacker, which would make sense, given that they drafted him with the 24th-overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. You tend to want your first-round draft picks to become fixtures of your team.
But with Harrison at 38 years old and inevitably, at best, in the waning years of his career, and Jarvis Jones essentially now being recognized as a bust, now riding the bench, it is all the more imperative that the Steelers find that that have hit on their pick with Dupree. Yesterday’s showing was a decent turning point in his season as he continues to kick off the rust, although, of course, he still has a way to go.
Neither of Dupree’s sacks, for instance, were of the immediate variety, both of them coming several seconds into the play. He recorded his first sack midway through the first quarter, when Tyrod Taylor fled the pocket. The second-year linebacker did show nice quickness to chase down and wrap up the mobile quarterback for a four-yard loss.
He later made a tackle on the running back on an eventual third and 23 play at the end of that drive following a holding penalty and another sack. He recorded the first tackle of the second half when he tagged Taylor down for no gain on a designed rush.
Dupree’s second sack came in the fourth quarter, and looked to set up another strong defensive stand, as his sack made it third and nine for Buffalo. But they converted the third and nine with a 41-yard gain and then scored on a 40-yard pass two plays later.
That second sack was quite the pinballing effort from Taylor, who actually managed to escape arguably five or six opportunities for a sack before Dupree finally caught up with him. It was Dupree, by the way, who had the first shot at him after getting free through the middle.
Dupree was lucky to have gotten that second opportunity for a sack on that play, as he should have been able to finish off the first one. He did later register another pressure and made a tackle for loss late in the game. It was progress. And his first game in the snow.