Bud Dupree finished his fifth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a high note, showing what he is capable of doing when he is finally fully healthy and is firing on all cylinders. He concluded the season with career-highs almost across the board, totaling 68 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles, among other notable accomplishments.
The only question remains whether or not his best season in Pittsburgh will be his last. After playing out the fifth-year option on his rookie contract as a former first-round draft pick, Dupree is due to become an unrestricted free agent and hit the open market in March, at which point all 32 teams will have the opportunity to bid for his services.
Asked after yesterday’s game, following which their 2019 season officially came to an end, if he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, he told reporters, “you always want to finish where you start. That lets you know you had a good career. It lets you know that people believed in you. People always want to finish where they start”.
Dupree was the 22nd-overall pick out od Kentucky in the 2015 NFL Draft, the third consecutive defensive player drafted by the Steelers in the first round. They would make it seven in a row subsequently, including T.J. Watt in 2017 and Devin Bush in 2019.
While he eventually wound his way into the starting lineup by the end of his rookie season, he would never top six sacks in any one year, though he was often dogged by nagging injuries. He missed most of his second season with a sports hernia, and has had a shoulder injury among other ailments.
This was the first season in which he could claim to be close to full health pretty much all year, and it showed, though that’s not to discount the tangible improvements he’s also made in his game. With his newfound outburst, however, he will of course be that much harder for the Steelers to retain.
“At the end of the day, the new NFL is a business”, Dupree acknowledge. “A lot of stuff going on around the team. We’ve got a lot of stuff that we need to fill on this team, too. I don’t know what’ll happen at the end of the day, but all I know is the situation that we’re in, we need to fix”.
I do firmly believe that Dupree wants to stay in Pittsburgh, if they give him the sort of contract offer that his play merits. Whether or not that is a realistic possibility remains to be seen. They could apply a tag on him and try to retain him that way as well.