Last year, you could almost always expect Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt to line up on the same side of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Dupree on the left, Watt on the right.
This year? Sure sounds like that’s going to change.
In an interview Dupree gave with Matt Williamson and Dale Lolley of Steelers Nation Radio, Dupree said he and Watt flipped in today’s practice. Dupree on the right, Watt on the left.
“I just got to get comfortable playing both sides,” Dupree said. “Me and T.J. gotta make sure we’re able to be in the game at either side. You never know what might be going on. I might like one side better than the other…we want to be versatile and be able to compete at both sides on a high level.”
In 2017, Dupree played 730 snaps at LOLB. Only 41 came on the right, about half of those occurring over the final three weeks of the regular season. Watt, as you’d expect, was in a similar boat. 627 on the right, 54 on the left.
According to Dupree, being more versatile will force offensive tackles to prepare for both players and should be able to create better matchups and consequently, a more effective pass rush.
“You can do some things against certain players on one side. You can expose a player.”
That may be one reason why the Steelers’ outside linebackers haven’t had as effective of a pass rush as they could’ve had and frankly, needed to have. Tackles know who they’re facing and the strengths/weaknesses of that player, making it easier to defend them. Force them to account for two players, giving them different looks and different types of rushes, and you can keep them on their toes.
Dupree is in desperate need of a breakout season. Plagued by injury and disappointing play, he hasn’t come close to double-digits sacks. The sacks he has recorded are rarely “high-quality” and often the product of scheme or effort. Watt had more success but still, his game is far from perfect and he’ll have to show more consistency as a pass rusher.
Playing the other side might be a bit of an adjustment but Dupree says the coaching points are all the same. Only the technique differs.
“It’s mirror. What we do on the left we do on the right. Really, it’s just opening up a different side in coverage. Playing the run with the inside hand, changing inside hands, and being able to see things from the left eye to the right eye.”