When the Pittsburgh Steelers used their first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft on outside linebacker Bud Dupree, they did so envisioning him some day as an every-down player. He already exceeded playing time expectations during his rookie season, not only working into a rotation immediately, but by the end of the season finding himself as the ‘starter’ at the top of the rotation.
But Dupree will be as glad as anybody on the coaching staff to see the rotation dropped this upcoming season, a continuation of where they left off in 2016. After missing most of the season, the former first-rounder was the second man in a rotation on the left side, but was playing every down as a starter by the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
“It helped a lot not having the rotation”, he said of his play toward the end of the year via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Coming in on a rotation you feel like you have to come in and make a play right away if you want to be on the field. You want to the coaches to see you make a play”.
The Steelers didn’t quite ever have a formal rotation of their outside linebackers, mostly going by feel and the flow of the game to decide who gets switched out and when, although they were frequent occasions in which they would alternate by a certain number of drives. Critical moments threw any plans out the window and went with the proverbial ‘hot hand’.
“Without the rotation, you can come off the ball and know you are setting things up”, Dupree continued. “You might not win every one, but if you are in there you can make plays”. This is an important aspect that can get left out in a rotation over the course of a game. There is an individual chess match between a pass rusher and a lineman, and a good pass rusher can set up moves in the future by others that he takes early in the game.
“Going forward, not rotating is a great asset for guys like me, guys how need to get in a rhythm”, he said. That would be the ideal, after all, as though he did make some plays, he has not shown himself to be a player who can consistently get pressure on the quarterback on a play-to-play basis, which is what the Steelers need to see from him.
“I will come back this offseason, OTAs and minicamp and be ready to go and know I just have to work to get better”, he said. Of course, Dupree missed a good portion of the offeason, training camp, the preseason, and into the regular season after he had to have a procedure done to repair a sports hernia.
“I am going to go out and work hard and the sky is the limit for me”, he said of his future in 2017. “I am going to keep getting better and better each year…This past year I had a lot more confidence, being able to take my time and focus on myself, on my skills and craft. It’s going to be a great full year for me next season”.