For the first time in what feels like a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers actually have a pair of book-end edge rushers who can threaten the quarterback. Third-year T.J. Watt is picking up this year where he left off in 2018, now with seven and a half sacks through eight games. And now fifth-year Bud Dupree is joining him. Fresh off a two-sack game, he now has six on the season, which ties his career high.
Their 13 and a half combined sacks are among the most in the league by a duo on any team. They have also forced five fumbles on the season between them, and have recovered four fumbles. Watt has contributed an interception as well.
“It’s great to be on the other side of a player like that”, Dupree told reporters following the win against the Indianapolis Colts, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “T.J. draws a lot of attention, too. So I thought I was going to get a lot of one-on-ones the whole season, but it didn’t work like that. So whenever we get one-on-ones, I try to create havoc”.
The 2015 first-round draft pick is playing under his fifth-year option this season, and knowing full well what that means. After compiling just 20 sacks in his first four seasons combined, he’s looking to break double digits this year just in time to cash in on the open market. And he has a very realistic chance of doing it, needing four sacks over the next eight weeks.
He has put up 11 and a half sacks over the past two years, and has incrementally shown improvement in his game. While he had five and a half a year ago, he created more pressure overall than ever before, and he knows that he was close to finishing several more, but either simply failing to do so or having been held by his opponent to prevent him. Some drew flags, others did not.
Dupree told reporters that he tries “not to think about it all the time”, speaking of his impending free agency status. “But at the same time, you’ve got to have it on your mind so you can go out there and play with a little bit more hair on fire. I’m just trying to be the best I can”.
One thing I don’t think anybody can ever really accuse Dupree of is not being a worker. He has for several seasons now worked with a pass-rush specialist in the offseason to help him improve his game. He would train with James Harrison in the offseason sometimes as well.
All that work is starting to pay off, and it’s giving the Steelers, for at least the next eight games, the most dynamic edge presence that they have had since Harrison was last paired with a healthy LaMarr Woodley in the very early 2010s.