When it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, the 2018 season is huge not only for him personally but also for the organization in relation to his position on the roster. This year is basically the beta test for his future, and whether or not he passes it could well determine if there even is one.
Dupree is entering the fourth and final year of his natural rookie contract, not including the fifth-year option the Steelers picked up on his deal as a former first-round draft pick. Provided that he doesn’t suffer a serious injury, the team will have the opportunity to release him prior to the start of the 2019 league year in order to get completely out from under the nearly $10 million he would be owed if he doesn’t perform well enough to earn it.
The Steelers have already shown their willingness to move on from first-round picks before, even first-round outside linebackers, the most recent being Jarvis Jones, though in his case he didn’t even have his option picked up.
Dupree has accomplished more in his three season than Jones had in four, but the 2015 draft pick is far from accomplished. And while the team is still looking for his advancements on the field statistically, Head Coach Mike Tomlin is also looking to see him grow in other areas.
“Certainly, we’re looking for more pressure”, he said about the obvious of hoping that Dupree can continue to be more effective as a pass rusher. “I don’t think there will ever be a point in time where I’m not singing that song. But I expect Bud to grow in all areas”.
Tomlin went on to say that Dupree is “at that point in his career where he’s no longer a young guy, and he needs to do the things that come with that. And a lot of it has not only to do with play, but just preparation and leadership, guidance that he provides the others within the position group in the defense and within the team”.
It might now quite feel like it, but Dupree is actually at this point one of the older linebackers on the team, especially if you consider seniority. From that perspective, they can’t look at him as a young and growing player anymore in terms of responsibilities outside his own improvement.
“All of those are realistic expectations for him”, Tomlin wrapped up his thoughts. “He appears to be in very good shape and ready to go in terms of football, but I’m just as interested in some of the informal responsibilities that come along with being Bud Dupree, and I expect him to fulfill those as well”.
Of course the Steelers expect him to fulfill his responsibilities. You can’ go into a season thinking one of your players is not going to live up to what you need him to be. Now it’s a matter of Dupree making good on the fait the team has shown in him, as he stated he wanted to do after they picked up his option.