For the past few years, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree has been one of the most dedicated pupils of Chuck Smith, the highly-regarded pass-rushing trainer, with whom other Steelers players such as Cameron Heyward have also worked in the past.
That’s not the same Chuck Smith who recently reflected upon Dupree’s recent success, however. This Chuck Smith coached Dupree while he was at Kentucky, born and bred in the state, played for the university, and coached high school football for years before joining the coaching staff in 2004.
One helped groom him to be drafted into the NFL. The other has helped him raise his game to another level every year for the past several seasons, culminating in something of a breakout year in 2019 that saw him post a career-high 11.5 sacks with four forced fumbles and two recoveries.
The other Chuck Smith played a role in helping him become a first-round pick taken by the Steelers in 2015. His first sack was against Tom Brady, and he would enter the starting lineup, rotating with Arthur Moats, by the end of his rookie season, but injuries would quickly become a theme in his career by year two.
The man who coached him in college recently reflected on the success that Dupree is now seeing, which resulted in his signing a franchise tag this offseason worth almost $16 million—significantly more than the entirety of his original rookie contract, and which is now guaranteed since he signed it.
“He was always a real humble person and part of that is just his personality but he also had confidence in his ability”, Smith recently recalled of Dupree from their Kentucky days. “He knew, ‘I can run faster than most, and I am stronger than most’. He knew he could play. So for him to bet on himself like he did in 2019 did not surprise me. Bud knew what he was doing”.
By the latter, he was referring, at least to date, to the fact that he signed his franchise tender, rather than accepting whatever original long-term contract extension the Steelers might have offered. The sides still have until July to reach terms on a long-term deal, Dupree with the franchise tag leverage, but if not, he will be an unrestricted free agent next year.
And his former coach knows he heads into the 2020 season full of the belief that he can have the same success in 2020 as he did last year, and that he can repeat that year after year. He is at the peak of his physical and mental abilities as an athlete and is finally at a good place in his health.
As far as he’s concerned, the sky is the limit. But the Steelers look across the formation and see T.J. Watt, who frankly has been ahead of Dupree since they took him in the first round in 2017. They’d like to pay both. But if it’s ultimately made into an either-or, you know which one is getting paid long-term.