The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Bud Dupree play under his fifth-year option in 2019?
While most seem to think—or at least would like to think—that it’s a foregone conclusion the Steelers will release fifth-year veteran outside linebacker Bud Dupree ahead of the start of the new league year in order to get out from under his fifth-year option deal, history has indicated that the team is frequently more willing than the fans are to pay players—including pass rushers—above what they should be worth.
Of course, Dupree isn’t even on Jason Worilds’ level when they made him their transition player several years ago, but the former first-round pick has made progress over the past couple of years, even if it hasn’t translated into a higher volume of sacks.
In 31 starts over the past two seasons, he has picked up 11.5 sacks. That’s fewer than the total that T.J. Watt had this year by himself. But the Steelers don’t have any clear options to replace Dupree as a starter on the other side—and in the past, when that has happened, they have had James Harrison to fall back on.
The ideal situation would be for them to release Dupree and re-sign him to a modest contract over three or so years that would give them flexibility. He could serve as a bridge starter while they acquire or develop another.
There are a couple of young pass rushers in the wings in Keion Adams, who was on the practice squad, and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who spent most of his rookie year on injured reserve and only played in one game, drawing a holding penalty.
While there will be a pretty robust free agency market at the edge rusher position this year, the bulk of the top end is scheduled to be players on their third contracts. Perhaps somebody like Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray, or Za’Darius Smith could be worth pursuing.