It’s become a broken record at this point, but once again, Pro Football Focus is putting out the argument that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be making a mistake by paying Bud Dupree. Ben Linsey posted an article yesterday in which he argues that the Steelers “would be wise to move on” from the former 2015 first-round draft pick, who is coming off of a career year.
If you have been following this at all, then you already know what the argument is that they make. While Dupree posted nearly twice as many sacks in 2019 (11.5, or 13 by PFF’s counting) as he did in any other individual season, what he did not do is improve his ability to generate pressure consistently.
In fact, at least according to their charting, Dupree’s pressure rate—the percentage of pass-rush snaps on which he records at least a hurry—has dropped over the past two years after reaching a career-high of 11.8 percent, which is considered average. He hardly cracked 10 percent in 2019, but he was able to record sacks on 13 of his 51 total pressures.
The argument goes that the more stable measurement of predicting future success as a pass rusher is not sacks, but rather pressure percentage. If you can consistently generate pressure, then you have consistent opportunities to record sacks, or to otherwise negatively affect the offense. Great pass rushers will typically have three or four times as many pressures as they do sacks, or even more.
One nuance that they added to their analysis for Dupree that I haven’t seen previously brought up is that they also argue he had one of the highest percentages of ‘easy’ pressures, either coming as an unblocked rusher or in cleanup. 16 of his 51 pressures, or about 45 percent, came this way, seventh-highest percentage among players with 50 or more pressures (the highest, incidentally, was Matt Judon of the Baltimore Ravens, yet I haven’t seen al the articles talking about how the Ravens shouldn’t pay him).
Yet another caveat in the analysis from their angle is that five of his six best pass-rushing performances, accounting for the bulk of his strong work, came against some of the worst tackles in the league, such as Andre Smith, Cordy Glenn, and J’Marcus Webb.
They did allow that he had his best pass-rushing game of the season against one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the league in the Indianapolis Colts’ Anthony Castonzo. They also acknowledge that he had his highest percentage of quality wins of his career, reflected in his career-best pass-rushing grade.
But is it worth in the ballpark of $16 million? Unfortunately for the Steelers, the question they have to answer is whether or not the $16 million is worth not having Dupree, and instead having Tuzar Skipper and Ola Adeniyi, plus someone off the street or a mid-round rookie. It’s a lot easier to make a financial case about personnel when it’s not your finances or personnel, or your job on the line.