Bud Dupree is playing for a lot of things this season. Even he admits that the reality of his impending free agency status in March of 2020 is not the least motivation in the back of his mind when he is going out there taking the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But it’s so much more.
He still very much sees himself as a part of the team, an active agent in the organization looking to win games and bring a championship back home to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. That’s as much of a motivation as anything. But one can’t help but think that he’s also working every day to prove that his critics have been wrong about him.
There’s no way he hasn’t heard himself being referred to as ‘Dud Dupree’ hundreds to thousands of times, if he pays any attention to the comments at all. They are hard to avoid whenever his name is brought up, at least until recently. People are starting to pay attention and give him respect.
Even Pro Football Focus, with Steve Palazzalo making special mention of the fifth-year outside linebacker for the Steelers this week during a column he and Sam Monson put together on their observations for the week.
After four middling seasons that saw Dupree grade anywhere from 43.9 to 62.6 overall, the 2019 season has been a breakout campaign for the former first-rounder. Dupree has accumulated sacks through the years, but he’s failed to win one-on-ones at a high rate while adding below-average work in the run game, but he’s now ranked No. 17 among edge defenders with 225 or more snaps played through Week 9 in overall grade (80.6). He’s racked up six sacks to tie a career-high and two forced fumbles so far this season. Against the Indianapolis Colts, Dupree picked up five pressures, including two sacks, one of which was a fantastic strip-sack and recovery. His breakout has coincided with T.J. Watt’s league-high 90.4 overall grade this season, giving the Steelers one of the best edge-rush duos in the league.
“…giving the Steelers one of the best edge-rush duos in the league”. When is the last time that this was true? 2011? Both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were limited that season to no more than 11 games (Woodley only played in 10), but each of them still managed to put up nine sacks that year. In the year prior, both of them hit 10, Harrison adding an extra half.
Dupree has six sacks through eight games. Watt has seven and a half. Coming off a game in which they combined to have three and a half on their own, things are looking up for the remainder of the season. But what about 2020? Watt will be here, but will Dupree?