Bud Dupree’s failure to live up to his draft status through the first four years of his career has little or nothing to do with the level of talent or athleticism that he possesses, but rather has to do with how he has used it up to this point. From a physical standpoint, he’s pretty much the model of a 3-4 outside linebacker that you would look for, but he’s played more like a transitional starter you would have in the lineup while you wait to find your next long-term solution.
He’s hoping in his fifth year with the Pittsburgh Steelers to show that the long-term solution is already on the roster, and that it’s himself. His means of doing that will be to produce more in the pass-rush game, first and foremost, after registering only 11 and a half sacks over the course of the past two seasons in 31 games played.
He got off to a good start by recording two sacks in his preseason debut on Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. The first came off of a tackle-end stunt with Cameron Heyward, while the second was a nice, clean win against the left tackle—even if that left tackle was Cameron Erving. He also beat Erving for a sack at right tackle while he was still with the Browns a couple of years ago. He is, uh, not very good.
But I digress.
Dupree told Mike Prisuta for the team’s website that it has definitely been a priority in recent years for the team to expand his pass-rushing repertoire and get him to stop relying on trying to win up the arc. “I probably didn’t even do a speed rush the whole game”, he said. “I was just working on other stuff, and each game we’ll work on different moves and different techniques”.
That’s an encouraging sentiment from Dupree, who certainly needs to find more ways to win against tackles, and more ways to win in general. While he has gotten some sacks on inside stunts before, even Heyward has observed that he has seen a different look from him.
“Sometimes when Bud runs his inside games he gets his body turned”, the veteran defensive lineman said. “It almost slants him down into the front”. But this time “he was able to use his body and get back vertical” and finish the play. He noted that so much of the stunt is about communication, and going into their second year playing on the same side together, he anticipates improvement there.
It goes without saying that it would be a major boost to the defense if the Steelers can get more consistent pressure and sack numbers from Dupree in 2019, regardless of whether or not it proves to be his final year with the team. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and it seems unlikely the team will re-sign him, either because he doesn’t develop enough or because he develops too much and prices himself out of their range.