Whenever there is a failure to achieve a collective goal in a team sport, there is a debate that rages in an attempt to assign blame. Bias of the observer will always come into play to either attack or defend any given factor. There are some who would have the Pittsburgh Steelers fire Head Coach Mike Tomlin even if they won the Super Bowl, while others would retain him after four straight losing seasons.
When it comes to the players, however, there is one common factor that they point to, and that is themselves. Fourth-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree made that pretty clear while he addressed the media in the wake of Pittsburgh’s victory and subsequent elimination from postseason participation.
While the Steelers did yesterday what they needed to do, they also put themselves in a position over their first 15 games that required that they receive help. The Cleveland Browns couldn’t rally against the Baltimore Ravens, so the latter would win the AFC North, Pittsburgh staying home.
“Your own team should control your destiny”, Dupree told reporters. “And we as players should be in control of our destiny. We should’ve been finishing guys along the season, and we waited until the end of the season to try to get everything situated and we didn’t”.
The Steelers got off to a slow start, drawing even with a Tyrod Taylor-quarterbacked Browns team in the season opener in their first game since completing a winless campaign. Then they lost two of their next three to get out to a 1-2-1 first quarter. After winning six in a row, they finally lost four of their final seven games to get them where they are now: nowhere.
Why? “It’s not on the coaches, it’s not on the scheme”, Dupree said. “It’s on us. We’ve got to get better as a unit. And that’s offense, defense, and special teams”. And as Cameron Heyward also said, there was plenty of blame to go around among players in their failures to execute at critical moments in all three phases of the game.
As for Dupree himself, he finished out what is basically a contract year with just five and a half sacks as his partner, T.J. Watt, posted 13. He recorded 42 tackles and a forced fumble as well as an interception returned for a touchdown and three passes defensed.
The Steelers certainly could have used more from Dupree this season on defense. Having exercised his fifth-year option valued north of $9 million for 2019, they will have to decided whether or not to release the former first-round pick before that money becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the new league year.