So, here’s a little bit of interesting information. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler told reporters during the first day of minicamp yesterday that there were already plans in place to flip T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree to opposite sides of the field last season, but they didn’t want to make the move in-season.
“We had a rookie and another guy who hadn’t been in the league very long”, Joe Rutter quoted the veteran coach as saying. “We didn’t think it was a good idea halfway through the season to switch them because we weren’t being unsuccessful in terms of winning games”.
As you are surely aware by now, the Steelers have so far spent the length of their offseason training opportunities utilizing second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt as their left-side defender and third-year veteran Bud Dupree on the right side.
Dupree, a 2015 first-round draft pick, spent his first three seasons in the league rushing from the left side of the defense. Marcus Gilbert previously said during OTAs that the only reason he really began his career on that side was because Jarvis Jones was already on the right.
As for Watt, he played his rookie season on the right side, starting ahead of James Harrison, who has been the team’s primary right outside linebacker for the past decade. It was already a major task for him to be able to be a wall-to-wall starter as a rookie, so it’s very understandable that they wouldn’t want to suddenly throw him a curve ball like that.
Still, while the team has spent quite a bit of time in the offseason getting Watt and Dupree work on the sides opposite to what they have previously been familiar with, Joey Porter, the outside linebackers coach, hesitated to set anything in stone.
“Everything right now is a work in progress”, he said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter. “Anything can change”, he went on, adding that, at least for now, Dupree “is on the right side”.
Back in 2013, the Steelers intended to move Marcus Gilbert to left tackle and have then-second-year tackle Mike Adams start on the right side. The year before, Adams had a few successful starts filling in for Gilbert at right tackle while the veteran was injured. That plan was scrapped I believe during training camp.
Nevertheless, with Butler’s comments about the plan already being in place last year, and the fact that both linebackers seem to be more than okay with the change, lend credence to the possibility of this being a long-term move, even if they spend more time moving back and forth than they previously have.
“I think I’m more natural on the left side”, Watt told Rutter, “just because I’m more right-hand dominant”. Dupree also weighed in, saying, “I’m more comfortable on [the right] side. I’m excited to see what happens”.