Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: OLB Bud Dupree
Stock Value: Up
A lot of people aren’t going to like this one, but the facts are behind it. Stock in Bud Dupree shares are clearly on the up lately. Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, the Steelers elected to pick up the 2015 first-round draft pick’s fifth-year option. Then they went through the entire draft class without adding an outside linebacker.
The team didn’t even show much interest in the position over the course of the pre-draft process. They didn’t bring many in for visits, they didn’t really meet the position on the Pro Day circuit or take them out to dinner or work them out. And, well, they didn’t draft any.
James Harrison is gone. Arthur Moats, for now, is gone, too. Anthony Chickillo is the only other linebacker of note outside of T.J. Watt, the starter on the right side. Dupree’s ostensible challengers are the likes of Keion Adams, Farrington Huguenin, and Olasunkanmi Adeyi. I won’t even blame you if you don’t know any of those names very well. Only the middle name has even played in a preseason game before.
But no matter where his stock is now, that won’t matter come September. The reality is that he is in his make-or-break season, and he has to make it or he could be looking for a job in 2019 regardless of the fact that the Steelers picked up his option. They could quite easily release him and excise themselves of his 2019 salary before it becomes guaranteed at the start of the new league year.
The theory in support of Dupree is that he has spent the past two seasons playing injury. He missed the majority of the 2016 season, spending much of it on injured reserve, after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. Last year, he suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that caused him to miss the preseason and the season opener, and which lingered throughout the year.
There can be no excuses in 2018, because the Steelers don’t have any more time to buy with him. 2019 is decision time, and that decision has to be based on what they see in 2018, for better or worse. The events of this spring have indicated that they will provide him with every opportunity to prove himself.