The Pittsburgh Steelers will report for their 2018 training camp on Wednesday and this year it will be interesting to see if outside linebacker Bud Dupree can do something he’s failed to do the last two years and that’s participate in most of the team’s practices at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and play in several of the preseason games.
Dupree, who is expected to switch sides with second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt this season, has missed considerable practice time and preseason snaps the last few years due to an injured core muscle in 2016 and an injured shoulder in 2017. In fact, the former first-round draft pick out of Kentucky has played all of 31 defensive snaps the last two preseasons and failed to participate fully in enough training camp practices that I’ve lost count. While all 31 of those preseason snaps came just last year, Dupree ultimately missed the team’s regular season opener with his shoulder injury that many believe may have have subsequently bothered him most of the year.
Dupree, who enters his fourth season with the Steelers with 14.5 career sacks, once again spent part of his offseason working on his pass rushing skills at Chuck Smith Training Systems. During an offseason interview, Chuck Smith once again predicted that his student would have a breakout year in 2018 after failing to do so in 2017. He did however, add that Dupree will needs to finally develop a signature pass rushing move if expects to finally reach his full potential.
“Well, I think it’s one of those things where you just need more work and you know, different pass-rushers develop at different times,” Smith explained to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports several weeks ago. “And I just think when you’re looking at a person like Bud, it comes down to this, it’s simple and I think Bud understand this, too, the guys who get sacks use signature moves. So, the other guy on the other side of him, J.J. Watt’s little brother [T.J. Watt], I watch Watt use moves.
“So, I think what Bud has to learn, it’s not really about physical, it’s the mental. The mental part of it is the one that affects pass-rushers. Because think about this, Pete, think how many rushers that are in the league that want to get 10 sacks. But you gotta develop signature moves and we can work on them all day, but if they’re not used by the player, we got to get back in the lab and keep working on them.”
In addition to training under the watchful eye of Smith again this offseason, Dupree needs to get as many live practice and preseason game reps as possible and especially now that he’s switching sides with Watt.
The Steelers showed a lot of confidence in Dupree this past offseason by picking up his fifth-year option for the 2019 season. Even so, should Dupree have yet another injury-plagued summer and follow it up with another season of sub-par pass rushing, the Steelers might decide to cut ties with him prior to his fifth-year becoming fully guaranteed in March.
“I think Bud is just scratching the surface to what he can be,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in April. “There’s more I think Bud wants to get out of himself and we want to get out of Bud.”
Nearly one full month ago and not surprisingly, Pro Football Focus labeled Dupree as the Steelers’ “biggest weakness.”
Drafted with the expectation that he would become the next great Steelers outside linebacker, Bud Dupree has failed to live up to his draft billing so far. From 354 pass-rushing snaps in the 2017 regular season, he produced just 40 total pressures, and he has just 83 total pressures since he entered the league in 2015.
Whether your bullish or bearish on Dupree as the team reports to training camp it doesn’t really matter at this point. However, what all fans should be cheering for when it comes to Dupree while at Latrobe is him staying on the field the remainder of the summer. If he manages to do that, perhaps there’s a chance the Steelers finally start getting out of him in 2018 what they initially hoped they would when they chose him 22nd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.