The 2017 NFL season was supposed to be the breakout year for third-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree. I have already written this line in some variety or another a few times since the Pittsburgh Steleers’ season began, for him with a cloud over it. A shoulder injury in training camp provided the unwanted shade.
But it hasn’t been all so bad.
He missed the season opener with that shoulder injury, but he has been back for the past six weeks, and he has put up 15 tackles with a pass defensed and three sacks. He had three tackles and a sack—in addition to other pressures—during Sunday’s victory over the Bengals.
Perhaps it is the soft light that through yonder window breaks in the cloud that has darkened his intended breakout campaign. He told Jeremy Fowler after Sunday’s game that this was the first week in which he has been out of the treatment protocol stemming from a training camp collision with David DeCastro that has forced the team to monitor his shoulder.
“For weeks”, Fowler Tweeted, “Dupree needed pain pills to lift his arm on gameday”. He quoted the outside linebacker as saying that “this was my best week” in terms of being healthy, and, “hopefully I don’t go back”.
#Steelers OLB Bud Dupree said last week was his first out of treatment protocol for his shoulder injury. He responded with a sack. For weeks, Dupree needed pain pills to lift his arm on gameday. “This was my best week,” Dupree said about his health. “Hopefully I don’t go back.”
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 23, 2017
He certainly looked to be at the top of his athletic game as he busted through the middle of the Bengals’ offensive line in the second half and hunted down Andy Dalton liked a gazelle. It was the sort of physical display that, presumably, the Steeler envisioned for their defensive group when they drafted him in the first round in 2015.
If he is indeed now out of the woods with respect to the state of his shoulder, no longer needing to be monitored on a weekly basis, and taking painkillers just to be able to perform, then it shouldn’t be surprising if we begin to see some of the best football of Dupree’s career as we head into the bye week.
It would certainly be a welcome sight to see Dupree go on something of a tear through the second half of the season, not that the Steelers have been struggling to get sacks. Their 24 over the course of the first four games puts them on pace for over 50 on the season and is second only to the Jaguars, who are on a historic pace with 33.
Between Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, and James Harrison, the outside linebackers have contributed 11 sacks to the defensive total so far this season, which is good, though not exceptional. I think they know that both of their young starters have more in them than they have already shown.