The Pittsburgh Steelers finally have some new players to talk about, after making two selections during the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft last night. With their first selection at pick 49, they added yet another wide receiver in Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, a big-bodied target that should have Ben Roethlisberger ready to make some of those ‘NFL throws’ he’s been talking about this morning.
In the third round, at pick 102, the front office looked to insulate their pass-rush game, going into the small-school arena with Alex Highsmith, who will serve as depth behind their starters at outside linebacker, including 2019 first-team All-Pro T.J. Watt.
This story, however, isn’t about the new faces, but rather one of the older ones. Among the topics general manager Kevin Colbert talked about following the selection of Highsmith was to confirm that the Steelers still have every intention of attempting to work out a long-term extension with sixth-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree in advance of the mid-July negotiating deadline for players who were tendered with a franchise tag.
This is in contradiction to the spirit of a Twitter ‘report’ from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Thursday night. While he did not explicitly say that the Steelers were not going to work on extending him this offseason, he did say that no extension would happen before one is done with Watt, and that “Bud knows this”.
Never in their history have the Steelers worked out a long-term extension with a first-round pick prior to entering their fifth season since first-round picks have been given five-year deals, or, since 2011, four-year deals with fifth-year options, excepting the quarterback position.
Watt is great, but he’s not the greatest first-round pick in team history. Particularly from a salary cap perspective, it is incredibly unlikely that the Steelers would even be able to afford to extend him this year, so almost necessarily, if Dulac were right, Pittsburgh wouldn’t be negotiating with Dupree until next year.
Said Colbert last night, “it’s always been our intent to try to get Bud signed to long-term deal so he can finish his career here. We have a very dynamic duo with Bud and T.J. and would like to see them end their careers together”.
And Colbert said the team still wants to sign Dupree to a long term deal.
“.. it’s always been our intent to try to get Bud signed to longterm deal so he can finish his career here. We have a very dynamic duo with Bu& T.J. and would like to see them end their careers together.”
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) April 25, 2020
It’s virtually unimaginable that Colbert would say this going into the negotiating period believing it’s unlikely they would be able to complete a long-term deal with Dupree by July, instead working on a new deal in February and March after another season.
There is every reason to believe the Steelers will do their best to sign him long-term between now and the middle of July. That doesn’t guarantee it will happen, but everything we have heard from the team suggests this is their intention. This is the same team that negotiated with Le’Veon Bell down to the wire twice, and offered him very good deals within their contract structure.