In terms of business decisions to be made, it’s almost set in stone at this point that priority number one for the Pittsburgh Steelers is finding a way to keep Bud Dupree in the black and gold. That doesn’t mean selling the farm and doing absolutely everything possible to make it happen. It’s very much possible that it doesn’t, and he ends up signing elsewhere in free agency. But that is their primary objective, whether it gets accomplished or not.
And one of the biggest reasons that it may not happen is also perhaps the biggest advocate for it happening. The Steelers are fully aware that the time to pay T.J. Watt is coming sooner or later, and it’s hard to reckon their ability to pay both edge defenders premium salaries. They frequently choose one over the other when they have similar situations at other positions.
There is a pretty notable exception, however. They paid their linebackers—all of them—during their late peak years of the late 2000s and early 2010s. James Harrison got paid after 2008 Super Bowl. LaMarr Woodley got his a short time later. Lawrence Timmons got paid as well, and James Farrior was always appropriately compensated.
So there is a clear precedent in recent history for them shelling out the cash, but will they be able to this time? Watt would love to see it. Asked if he wants Dupree back, he said, “hell yeah”, according to Brooke Pryor. “If anyone asks me that, it’s way above my pay grade, but if anybody asks me that, I’ll 100 percent advocate for Bud Dupree.
During the regular season, in which both played all 16 games, Watt recorded 14.5 sacks with eight forced fumbles, while Dupree netted 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. All of those numbers represented career-highs, and combined came out to 26 sacks and 10 forced fumbles for the duo.
“This defense was a lot of fun to be a part of”, Watt said of the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense in terms of points allowed. They are also the only team since sacks became an official statistic to lead the league in both sacks and takeaways in the same season. “I hope we can keep it as similar as possible for next year”.
One change that is probably a pretty safe prediction is Javon Hargrave leaving in free agency. It would be virtually impossible for them to keep both Dupree and Hargrave, and of the two, schematically, Dupree makes a lot more sense in terms of value. They will get Stephon Tuitt back, though, so there is that to look forward to.