The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
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: Is the improvement in Bud Dupree’s performance in year five primarily due to his being healthy?
When the Steelers used their first-round draft pick on Bud Dupree in 2015, they understood that they were taking a chance on an athlete that they would have to develop. Not only was he somewhat raw coming in, he didn’t even have a natural position coach in college. It would take time to unlock his full potential.
After his rookie season, or perhaps after his second season, people started to get impatient. He actually spent most of year two on the Reserve/Injured List, recovering from a groin injury that required surgery. When he returned, he played in the final six games, and racked up four and a half sacks during that time, including one game with two and a half, which was the only multi-sack game of his career until Sunday.
The 2017 and 2018 seasons were also marked by injury. He dealt with a shoulder injury in 2017, even missing the first game, and that was an issue that he dealt with throughout the year. Among other things, he had pectoral and knee injuries that caused him to miss practice time last year.
But how much of the improvement in his play due simply to his feeling good and having a full range of motion? He actually did have an ankle injury earlier this year, which would impact his ability to dip around the edges.
Whatever the reason, coming off arguably the best game of his career, Dupree knows what’s at stake for him in 2019. The fact that he’s had the opportunity to go through the season as healthy as he has been since his rookie year is just a bonus.