Bud Dupree finally had a breakout 2019 season. But a year away from free agency, there’s always room to improve. That’s the approach Dupree and Mike Tomlin are taking entering 2020. Asked where Dupree can improve, Tomlin said more splash plays are never a bad thing.
“More significant playmaking, ball awareness type things,” Tomlin said via a post-practice Zoom call. “Continuing to build upon the natural trajectory that his career has taken. One thing about his performances is it’s been continually improving over the course of his stay here. And so it’s reasonable to expect that to continue. He is always highly conditioned. He’s gaining experience with each and every snap and he’s a hard working guy.”
Dupree has spent most offseasons training with well-known pass rush coach Chuck Smith down in Atlanta. Smith spent nine years in the NFL, registering 58.5 career sacks for the Falcons, and Dupree regularly shares clips of his training during the summer.
He showed the ability to make those game-changing plays a year ago. From 2015-2018, he had only 20 combined sacks, never more than six in a season. In 2019, he broke out to the tune of 11.5 to pair with 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Staying healthy was one key in Dupree’s success. No longer was he battling a groin, elbow, or pec injury that plagued him before, sapped him of his power, and had him spending more time in the trainer’s room than on the practice field. Dupree’s shown toughness to play through those injuries but it hurt his production. Last year, he was healthy and his play skyrocketed.
He’ll start opposite TJ Watt to make up one of the NFL’s most dangerous edge rushing duos. The two have a chance to set a franchise record for combined sacks by an OLB duo. The record is currently 27.5, held by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in 2008. Watt and Dupree united for 26 in 2019.
Unfortunately, the dynamic duo figures to be short-lived. His breakout season coupled with likely another strong 2020 will price himself out of Pittsburgh in a hot pass rushers market, especially with TJ Watt due a dump truck worth of money next summer.