One of the league’s best duos were OLBs TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. Good friends off the field, ferocious pass rushers on it. But Dupree suffered a season-ending torn ACL at the start of the month, undoubtedly a big blow to the Steelers’ defense and EDGE partner TJ Watt. In an interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Watt said while he still often sees Dupree around the facility, he wishes he was on the field alongside him.
“I see Bud almost on a daily basis,” Watt said. “He’s been absolutely crushing his rehab. Really proud of him for how well he’s been attacking he’s rehab.”
Dupree’s torn ACL is expected to keep him out for at least the start of the 2021 season though it’s not impossible for him to be ready for Week One. The big question will be how much the injury will impact his market value. Scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, Dupree was poised to become one of the league’s highest paid outside linebackers. Now, his market is much more uncertain.
For the here and now, Watt said Dupree has been able to provide a different viewpoint since going down with his injury.
“He’s been able to provide some insight from watching the TV copies. He said it’s so much different to be sitting at home watching on TV.”
Watt and Dupree have one of the best bromances on the team, celebrating whenever either one (or sometimes, someone else) made a big play. Watt told Matthews he wishes Dupree could be part of the team’s playoff run.”
“I just keep telling him how much I miss him out there.”
But the Steelers’ mentality is “next man up” and rookie Alex Highsmith has done an admirable job filling in. Watt said Highsmith’s game against the Colts was the best one of his career.
“I’m also really proud of Alex Highsmith and how he’s been able to step up for us…you have a guy like Alex who works so hard at practice, studying film, asking the right questions. You’re going to continue to see that growth as the game continues to slow down for him.”
Highsmith finished Sunday’s win with eight tackles and two QB hits. While he has only one sack this season, his tape has been better than those baseline numbers indicate. The odds are high he’ll be riding with Watt at the ROLB spot come Week One of next season.