The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will get another double-digit-sack season out of Bud Dupree in 2020.
Explanation: Prior to the 2019 season, Bud Dupree’s career-high sack count in a single season was 6.5. he finished the 2019 season with 11.5 sacks. While he made clear, tangible improvements to his game in the offseason, and also had better luck with injuries, it’s hard to bank on that jump being consistent this deep into his career.
Dupree turned the corner in multiple ways in 2019, and one of the biggest ways in which he managed to do that was because he did a better job turning the corner. He was getting to the quarterback at a rate not that much greater than in recent years, but he was doing it with greater quality.
I believe that he can still increase his pressure percentage as well. But I believe that he has improved significantly on his ability to finish plays, and that was an area that he stressed for himself the previous offseason. That’s often the biggest difference between getting six sacks and getting 12: your ability to finish when the quarterback’s in your crosshairs.
So much of his tape prior to 2019 is contaminated by his injury history. He missed most of 2016, for example, with a sports hernia. It was either the year after or in 2018 where for most of the season he couldn’t lift his arm above the shoulder level.
Even James Harrison didn’t produce 10 sacks every year. In fact, in 13 games in 2012, he only had six sacks. In 2017, he had 8.5 sacks in 15 games. The point is, sacks can come and go, no matter how good you are. Even Khalil Mack and Von Miller came up shy of 10 sacks last season.
And while Dupree is talented, he isn’t talented on an elite level. Some of his athletic attributes are fantastic, but he’s never had the type of bend that you associate with an elite edge rusher, nor has he ever been a power rusher, either. He doesn’t have any one way to consistently get to the quarterback.