The Pittsburgh Steelers sent three defensive players to the Pro Bowl this year, more than in any other season since 2011, when they also had three players make it. For this unit, however, they feel that wasn’t enough.
Cameron Heyward has developed into a perennial Pro Bowler, with at least eight sacks in each of the past three seasons from the defensive tackle position. T.J. Watt has blossomed into one of the elite edge defenders, with 13 sacks and six forced fumbles in each of the past two years. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the new face and the first-timer, offering lots of splash in his first season here.
But what about Bud Dupree? The fifth-year edge defender has had a career year with nine and a half sacks and four forced fumbles. Outside of Watt, those numbers compare favorably to the rest of the field at his position in the AFC. But Matthew Judon of the 12-2 Baltimore Ravens made it ahead of him.
“He has the stats, but even if you don’t look at the stats and just watch the game, he’s a game-wrecker”, Watt said of his running mate on his bid for the Pro Bowl, from Joe Rutter. “I don’t know what they didn’t really see there, but I’m sure it will be the right motivation for him”.
Dupree has made a number of significant plays this season, including a strip sack to end the game once or twice. He has racked up the hits and tackles for loss as well, and has recovered a couple of the fumbles that he has forced.
The former first-round pick admitted that he was gunning for the Pro Bowl. “When you think you deserve something, it makes you mad, but at the end of the day, I know the big picture is to make it to the playoffs”.
Aside from Judon, who—let’s face it—has a good chance of making it to the Super Bowl, the other outside linebacker on the AFC squad is Von Miller, who obviously has superior name recognition. Miller only has seven sacks this season, however, with no turnovers, and fewer tackles for loss.
“Bud has put together one of the most complete seasons I’ve seen in an outside linebacker”, defensive captain Heyward said. “I know it didn’t work out for him, and, hopefully, he’s an alternate of some sort. I know he put in the work. It’s a shame he didn’t get recognized because that dude has had a hell of a season”.
Heyward’s first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2017 was as an alternate before being voted in each of the past two years. Watt made it as an alternate in 2018, but now has the national media’s attention, and was voted in outright.
I don’t know if it’s the case—the Steelers no longer announce whom alternates are—but it seems pretty likely Dupree is at least a first or second alternate. There is a good chance he still ends up with the opportunity to play in the game. Not that he would want to, because it would mean no Super Bowl.