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: What will Bud Dupree’s stat line look by the end of the season?
One of the more interesting developments throughout the 2019 season so far has been the continued progress that fifth-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree has made. While he has gradually gotten a bit better, a bit more polished, with each passing season, this year so far appears to clearly be his best.
Just in time for him to hit the open market. Playing under his fifth-year option, Dupree’s level of play right now is certainly pricing him out of any reasonable salary range the Steelers could afford. And especially when you consider the success a player like Za’Darius Smith has had after signing a big deal, it will only reinforce is value on the open market. Pass rushers always get paid.
So the question is not so much whether or not Dupree will make bank in March—not even really whether or not the Steelers would be able to afford him, which is unlikely—but what his stat line will be at the end of the year that will serve as the basement for the bidding.
Through seven games, he has put up four sacks with 29 tackles, including six for a loss. He has produced a forced fumble and recorded two passes defensed. He is playing the run well and getting pressure on the quarterback as well. He is playing like a starter.
And he will be paid like a starter. He should finish with eight or nine sacks and in the ballpark of 55-60 tackles, perhaps with another takeaway or two added to the mix by the end of the year. At least those are his rough projections. Can he hit the 10-sack mark? It’s certainly doable, even if his previous career-high of six is what he will need over the final nine games.