With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Bud Dupree, OLB
The 2018 season is something of a make-or-break year for Bud Dupree, in his fourth year in the league, as it will go far in determining his future, both immediately and long-term. The Steelers picked up his costly fifth-year option for 2019, but if he doesn’t perform to a certain level, the team can still release him and get out of that contract.
To date, Dupree has not done anything particularly impressive nor poor. He does have three sacks in six games, which puts him on pace for the most sacks in a single season he will have recorded. He has also played the run fairly well, including a few tackles for loss. He also recorded the first interception of his career, which he returned a short distance for a touchdown.
In general, Keith Butler and the defensive coaching staff have been utilizing a variety of schemes to put him into positions to allow him to contribute effectively as a pass rusher. He doesn’t get sent around the edge as much as you might expect, participating in a lot of inside stunts, which is how he has gotten a number of the tackles he has had over his career.
The problem is that he hasn’t had a lot of success outside of these opportune schemes that are designed specifically to get him into space to make use of his natural athleticism. That is why, for example, Pro Football Focus has given him a lower pass-rushing grade for the season than dozens of players who have fewer pressures than he does.
In my overall estimation, Dupree has neither been an asset nor a liability for the Steelers, but that is not what you want from your blindside pass rusher. The problem is that there is no reasonable expectation of him suddenly starting to do better—and there is also nobody to take his place that would do better, at least for the moment.