The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping that former first-round draft pick Bud Dupree would be able to do much entering his third season to carry the defense on his shoulders, but at least during the early stages of the 2017 process, on the eve of the regular season, that appears to be posing an issue.
In what is becoming somewhat of a recurring theme, the outside linebacker is dealing with an injury as the regular season begins, though this one is far less severe than the issue that he had to deal with for the majority of the 2016 season.
Last year, in fact, Dupree spent most of the time on the Steelers’ injured reserve list after undergoing sports hernia surgery during training camp. While he showed progress over the course of this playing time, he never really hit the level of dynamic performance that they need from him.
Now, as he heads into what is supposed to be his breakout season, he is already dealing with a shoulder injury that has apparently been affecting him through much of training camp. We have already previously documented the mystery behind his missing time in training camp, and then his surprise lack of playing time during the second preseason game, in which he was expected to play.
While Dupree did suit up for and play in the third preseason game, he has only selectively and on a limited basis participated in practices for the Steelers this week leading into the regular season opener for them in Cleveland.
In fact, he finished out the week by not practicing at all yesterday, although his teammates and his defensive coordinator all said that they expect he will be playing in the game. But if he is already dealing with an injury, how effective is he going to be able to be, and what is this going to mean for the season as a whole?
The defense has fortunately not placed all their pass-rushing eggs in one basket, however, as they have four other capable outside linebackers at the position, including rookie first-round pick T.J. Watt, who is slated to start opposite him.
But if Dupree is limited and does not see a full workload, it would not be surprising to see Watt kick over and play some on the left side, as he did that fairly often during the preseason. James Harrison would man the other position, where he finished up a year ago as the starter.
There is also Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats behind them, both of whom have experience starting in the Steelers’ system. The hope is that they will not have to utilize these reserves, but should they prove to be needed, it is naturally better to have them than not.