The Pittsburgh Steelers have a number of personnel questions looming over the horizon, one of them regarding their 2015 first-round draft pick, outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
While he has had some modicum of success over the course of his first three seasons, posting a career-high six sacks a year ago, there is a legitimate debate over whether or not he has done enough to justify picking up the fifth-year option that comes with his contract.
The truth is that the Steelers have been waiting two seasons now for his ‘breakout’ year. It was supposed to be in 2016, but a sports hernia injury that required surgery saw him sidelined for most of the year. He only played in the final seven games, not even meaningfully in that first game, but he did come on with four and a half sacks and a forced fumble.
Last year, this was going to be it. His pass-rushing trainer talked him up as the next Von Miller, but even though he was on the field for most of the year, it didn’t happen. He suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that lingered, even causing him to miss the first game of the year, but one must be hesitant in relying upon that injury to justify his performance and production.
Last year’s decision on the fifth-year option was a no-brainer. Due up was Ryan Shazier, their first-round pick in 2014, the inside linebacker who made the Pro Bowl in 2016. The Steelers readily picked it up and he once again played at a Pro-Bowl level in 2017, before tragedy struck.
Shazier may well never play football again, even though he will count for over $8 million against the Steelers’ salary cap in 2018 because the fifth-year option is guaranteed in the event of injury. This unfortunate side of the business, from the owners’ perspective, however, doesn’t sway the team into changing how they approach the option year.
“That’s the risk you run when you put that option into effect”, he told reporters. “Any player can get injured on any play, and that is our game. We understand that, and we understand the risk involved, and we try to make those decisions knowing that those type of things can happen”.
Believe it or not, but we are already coming up on the fifth-year option period for Artie Burns in a year from now. Of course, he has a full season yet to play before the team has to decide whether or not to pick it up. But it can sneak up on you.
The only time to date that the Steelers have not exercised their club option on a first-round pick since the 2011 Draft class—the first under which the option existed—was in 2016 when they chose not to exercise the option on Jarvis Jones, their 2013 first-round pick. He played out his contract before signing elsewhere, ending up injured in 2017.