There don’t appear to be many in Steeler Nation right now who are particularly thrilled about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to pick up the fifth-year option of third-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree, their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Through three seasons, he has started 24 games, regarding 90 tackles with one forced fumble and 14.5 sacks. He hit a career-high six sacks in 15 games last seasons, which he played while nursing a shoulder injury that he suffered in training camp. He missed the first nine games of the 2016 season due to injury.
Dupree was the second of three outside linebackers that the Steelers have selected in the first round over the course of the previous five drafts. They also used their first-round selection in 2013 on the position with Jarvis Jones. His fifth-year option was not picked up and he left in free agency. The team then drafted T.J. Watt in the first round in 2017 to replace him, and he became an instant starter.
While many are skeptical about Dupree’s future and cynical over the news of his option being picked up, he is understandable excited about having (potentially) at least another two years on the team, as well as the implications of the option being picked up itself.
He called it “good news”, adding, “I get another two years with my teammates, which will be fun. It’s two more chances to win the Super Bowl. It’s a great time”. He and Anthony Chickillo are actually currently the longest-tenured members of the outside linebacker group on the team following the release of James Harrison and the free agency status of Arthur Moats.
“The comradery that we have, everyone is close on and off the field”, he said of not just the outside linebackers, but the defense as a whole. “We talk to each other about everything. It’s always a great time, even when we are around each other and it’s not about football. That is the type of brotherhood we have”.
And like it or not, Dupree remains a part of that brotherhood for 2018 and potentially beyond. While he still has a lot to show, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort or motivation. Injuries have hampered his ability to maximize his effectiveness the past two seasons.
“I want to make sure I am playing to my best capability”, he said about his plans for the 2018 season, “so I can make sure the belief they show in me is right, and that I keep pushing that”. I would imagine he will continue to work in the offseason with pass-rushing coach Chuck Smith, as he has the past two years.
It doesn’t even need to be said how huge a year 2018 is for Dupree. It will go a long way toward determining his future, or at least how stable that future will be. The Steelers have extended him the benefit of the doubt. Now it’s time for him to reward their faith in his abilities.