It has been a bit too common for Bud Dupree over the course of his first three seasons to be bogged down by injuries. His intended breakout season of 2016 in year two for the Pittsburgh Steelers was greatly neutered due to a groin injury that caused him to miss more than half of the season, even if he was able to rack up a few sacks upon his return.
This year, it’s unclear whether or not he will ever be able to play at close to 100 percent after suffering a shoulder injury during training camp. It already caused him to sit out the season opener while missing most of the preseason, and it has also limited him in practice at times.
Yet he still has two sacks so far this year in three games, and the consistency at which he has been generating pressure is at a career-best pace at the moment for him. Both he and his teammates know that there are still bigger and better things awaiting him in the future.
“I believe in myself. I know I can make a lot of plays”, he told Kevin Gorman. “I feel like I’m nowhere near my ceiling”. If you look back at his 15 starts, he does have 10 and a half sacks between them, which is a solid season, at least as far as that one statistic goes.
“I’m going to keep grinding”, he said of continuing to try to get better and to stay healthy while doing it. “I can do a lot of things because I’m so versatile and athletic. The coaches try to use me as much as they can, and it’s good to be a guy they count on to make plays”.
As Alex Kozora’s charting notes reveal, it has actually surprisingly been the rookie T.J. Watt who has been asked more than anybody at the position to drop into coverage and do things away from the ball on passing plays—and he does have an interception to show for it—but Dupree is athletic enough for the task as well.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler admitted that he is expecting to get even more out of Dupree at some point than they are currently seeing, speaking to reporters on Thursday. “I look for him to play better than he has”, he said.
“I think he can play better than he has. He’s got a sack here and there. He can get some pressure on the quarterback. If we can get him in situations where we know they’re going to throw the football, then he’ll be even better”.
Still, Ryan Shazier, the man with the green dot on defense, has seen the difference when his fellow first-round linebacker has been on the field. “You could tell it was a big difference when Bud came back”, he said. “It really helped our pass rush get better. When we have all guns blazing, it’s really hard to stop us from rushing the passer the way we want to”.