While many things have gone wrong this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, this season has in some ways has been a big of a throwback, and to see the team field a defense with two edge defenders who wield the capability of putting up simultaneous double-digit sacks has been an exciting development to watch. Unfortunately, it may come to an end as soon as it’s begun.
With T.J. Watt sitting a 14 sacks and Bud Dupree now at 10.5 on the year, this duo is the first pair of outside linebackers for the Steelers to put up double-digit sacks individually since 2010, when both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley cleared that bar. In fact, that was the third consecutive season for that championship pair to do that.
Unfortunately, this may be a one-and-done affair, given Dupree’s free agency status in 2020. While it took him five seasons to reach a point of both skill in health to be able to produce this way, he has put forth a borderline Pro Bowl effort this season, and earned himself quite a windfall in a few short months.
Dupree’s growth has been significant for Watt, too, as they are a pair who has been feeding off of one another since the latter got here in 2017. They have pushed each other to get better, and are closer this season than they ever had been before.
“It’s been a blast. I think we’ve only gotten better as the season goes on”, Watt said of going out there with Dupree every week this season, while he was accepting his team MVP award earlier in the week. “We’re just continuing to push each other, even as the season goes on. I think a lot of guys kind of taper off as you getter further into the season. You start to see them look forward to the offseason”.
While both have produced sacks, they have also been producing in other areas. Both have double-digit tackles for loss. Watt has seven forced fumbles, while Dupree has a more than respectable four. They’ve both recovered multiple fumbles as well, while Watt also has two interceptions.
“When you have a guy like Bud and those other guys upfront to really push you”, Watt said, it really helps. “I think that’s the cool thing about Bud and I’s relationship, is we’ll watch the games on Sunday and Monday. ‘Did you see this move? Let’s try it this week and see if we can do it’. So just constantly pushing each other and trying to be our best”.
Having a dynamic bookend pass rush is one of the core tenets of playing great defense in any era. The Steelers have finally put that together this year. It would be a shame to watch half of it walk away in the offseason, but that’s the way it goes.