Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin both made it clear not long after the team’s 2019 regular season ended that the hope is to have outside linebacker Bud Dupree back for at least the 2020 season and maybe even beyond. Them both saying that was probably music to the ears of Dupree’s outside linebacker counterpart, T.J. Watt, who has made it known for quite a while that he hopes to have his positional counterpart back in 2020.
On Wednesday, Watt, who is currently preparing to play in the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL along with several other of his Steelers defensive teammates, once again spoke about how he hopes to have Dupree back playing opposite him next season.
“It would be huge to have Bud back,” Watt said Wednesday in Orlando, according to an interview on steelers.com. “I’m a big advocate for Bud Dupree. He had a hell of a season this year and I think he’s continuing to get better. And it’s not just the sacks and the pass rush, he plays the run really well, too. I think he’s a really stout defender for the team.”
Not only did Dupree register a career-high 11.5 sacks last season, he also set a new personal best in total tackles with 68 and was credited with 43 total stops in 2019 by Pro Football Focus and many of those came against the run. While up until this past season Dupree hasn’t been considered a great pass rusher, he’s been stout against the run most of his NFL career and thus that part of his game would also be tough to replace if he were to leave the Steelers this offseason via unrestricted free agency.
The Steelers have a few more weeks to work out a contract extension with Dupree, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, prior to the start of the franchise and transition tag period of the offseason near the end of February. Assuming no contract extension is ultimately worked out with Dupree in the next several weeks, it certainly sounds like the Steelers are prepared to place the franchise tag on their former first round draft pick out of Kentucky.
Before such a franchise tag on Dupree happens, however, the Steelers will need to clear quite a bit of 2020 salary cap space to accommodate a speculated $16.266 million charge for the outside linebacker. Regardless of what it takes to keep Dupree in the fold at least one more season, Watt is rooting for his teammate’s return in 2020 and the Steelers are evidently well aware of that by now.
“Obviously, I would love to have him back, but it’s not my decision,” Watt said of Dupree on Wednesday. “I mean, they know how I feel about him.”