The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Bud Dupree will post eight or more sacks in 2019.
Explanation: Dupree, the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2015, has recorded 20 sacks in total through his first four seasons in the NFL over 54 games, with 39 starts. 11 and a half have come in the past two years, including a career-high six in 2017, in which he played 15 games.
Despite what many want to believe, Dupree, 26, is still a growing player who has the potential to develop into something better and more productive than he has up to this point in his career. It’s never been a question of his talent level, but moreso his technique and consistency.
Those can always improve, and it could help to have a fresh perspective, with Keith Butler returning to coach the outside linebackers. He obviously had success with the likes of Joey Porter, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley.
Eight sacks isn’t too high of a bar to clear. If he had just finished the sacks that he had a chance at in 2018, he would have gotten there. And for the record, getting to eight sacks will not even mean this was his best season. That’s only true in a world in which statistics are the only thing that matter.
Dupree has been training with a ‘pass-rush guru’ in the offseason for years now. There really is no compelling reason to think that his fifth year will suddenly be materially different from his fourth or his third. The best argument he can make is that he will be more healthy, though even that is an assumption.
One can’t help but wonder if Dupree might even lose some playing time this year to Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. T.J. Watt is emerging as the team’s best pass-rusher, which means he’ll be staying on the field more than Dupree. There are those, of course, who already think his job should be up for grabs, but the Steelers are determined to learn who he is during his fifth-year option, which has committed nearly $10 million to him.