It’s not even up for debate at this point that Bud Dupree is having the best season of his career, in his fifth year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And he has every reason to be motivated to do so. A 2015 first-round draft pick, he is playing under his fifth-year option with an eye toward unrestricted free agency in 2020.
The Kentucky product recorded two sacks on the day and a huge run stop on third and one on the Indianapolis Colts’ final offensive play from scrimmage. That run stop forced them to attempt a go-ahead field goal that missed wide left from 43 yards out.
And his two sacks, working against Anthony Castonzo, are the second-most he has ever had in his career, just his second multi-sack game in 62 contests over a five-year period. With now six on the season, that ties a career-high, and he has eight games left to not just better that, but to hit double digits for the first time.
Said Dupree after the game, “I know what’s at stake for me, but also I know what’s at stake for the team”. He understands that he is playing for a contract for himself, and he knows that there is a good chance that contract will come from somebody other than Pittsburgh, even though he has gone on record saying that he wants to play here.
“Ben going down, we had to put that much more energy and effort on defense”, he said of the Steelers; 2019 season following the season-ending injury suffered by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “They’re bringing more first-rounders and pressure on the defense to play. No one wants to be called a—no one wants to do bad when you’ve got so many good players on one side of the ball. We all come together as a unit and just try to make plays”.
Watching the interview, I can’t help but wonder if Dupree stopped himself from bringing up the “bust” term, one that’s been thrown out in his direction for years. No doubt that’s a label that’s been on his mind and just yet one more thing fueling him to be everything he can be.
What many might forget—and this certainly isn’t the only factor—is that this is really the first season in which Dupree has been fully healthy since his rookie year. He’s had leg injuries, he’s had arm injuries. He had a sports hernia. All of these take a toll on an edge rusher’s ability to win.
And he’s winning more frequently than ever before, finally looking like the first-round pick, the player with potential, that they thought they were getting in 2015. It may be just in time for him to cash out, but meanwhile, he’s helping them fuel a mid-season push to get back into the playoff race.