One of the many storylines this past offseason when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense involves the switching sides of outside linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. While several members of the coaching staff have already commented extensively on the two edge-rushers switching sides ahead of training camp getting underway, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert talked more about why the moves happened over the weekend during interviews with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller of ‘Movin’ the Chains’ on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“I think just having spent a year with the tandem, I think the positional switch fits their skillsets and will put them in position to make more impactful plays,” Tomlin told Kirwan ahead of his team’s annual Friday night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. “T.J. is a very instinctive player, ball-aware player, bats a lot of passes and things of that nature, so some of the rhythm quick passing that’s associated with right handed quarterbacks is your left edge rusher. [I] think he’s going to have a chance to do more of that in that position and I think Bud’s going to get an opportunity to pin his ears back, which is something that he was really good at and really loves to do on the other side.”
When it was Colbert’s turn to talk this past weekend about Watt and Dupree switching sides, like Tomlin, he pointed to the difference in skillsets the two players have as being the main reason for the move.
“Coach [Tomlin] looked at it and you know, T.J. has a certain skillset and Bud has a certain skillset,” Colbert said. “Bud’s probably a little step faster than T.J. is, probably a little better technically with his hands. You know, most teams are run oriented to their right hand, whether they admit it or not, so there’s some things we think T.J. will be able to do on the front-side better than Bud and some things Bud may be able to do on the back-side better than T.J. So, I think when they get back together, unfortunately he [Watt] tweaked his hamstring and fell behind a little bit.”
Since Colbert gave that interview, Dupree has unfortunately joined Watt as an injured player watching practices on the sideline due to him being placed in concussion protocol following the team’s Friday night practice. While both players are expected to resume practicing soon, and maybe as earlier as Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if both ultimately wind up playing in the Thursday night preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles so that we all can start seeing firsthand how the difference in skillsets the two players have on display in an actual game.
“That group, together, I think those matchups in those switches will benefit them and us,” Colbert said.