One of the remaining biggest holes remaining for the Pittsburgh Steelers is depth at outside linebacker. The team re-signed Jamir Jones and also claimed Quincy Roche off waivers in January. But Malik Reed signed with the Miami Dolphins, leaving little behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
One name that’s frequently been linked to Pittsburgh is Bud Dupree, whom the Steelers took in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft and has spent the last two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Dupree was cut on March 15, and the Steelers are reportedly hosting him for a visit. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Ray Fittipaldo believes the chances of Dupree coming back to Pittsburgh are high, placing them at “better than 50%” in his chat earlier today.
“If he’s coming in for a visit it’s not for the Steelers to get to know him. They already know him and what he can do for the team. I imagine it’s for a physical and money has already been discussed,” Fittipaldo wrote when asked about the possibility of a Dupree return.
If the Steelers do bring Dupree back, they know the sort of player they’re getting. While it took awhile for him to reach his full potential with the Steelers, Dupree totaled 19.5 sacks in his last 27 games with the team. He left after the 2020 season to sign a five-year deal worth up to $82.5 million with the Titans, but injuries and a lack of production have him back on the market after just two seasons.
Dupree’s next contract will likely be much, much cheaper, and if the Steelers can get him on a discounted salary, then it’s a good move to bring him back. At this point, it doesn’t seem as if Dupree has much of a market, so he might be willing to settle for less to secure a roster spot and have some financial security heading into next season.
The market for EDGE depth is pretty thin right now, so unless the Steelers want to invest a Day 2 pick (and potentially another late-round pick) into the position, bringing in Dupree, a guy they know can produce when healthy, would seemingly be good business. While his injury history is a concern, playing reduced snaps behind Watt and Highsmith would hopefully keep him fresh and on the field.
The production at outside linebacker behind Watt and Highsmith last year was minimal. The trade for Reed didn’t work out, the team got very little out of Jones, and despite getting creative and giving rookie DeMarvin Leal snaps off the EDGE, not much worked.
The Steelers need a reliable presence behind Watt and Highsmith. While Dupree is older and has injury concerns, I’m more comfortable getting production out of him as the OLB3 rather than a Roche/Jones/rookie combination. We’ll see if a deal gets done, and while the Steelers aren’t getting prime Bud Dupree, they’ll at least be getting a guy they can rely on in reduced snaps.