The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled in 2019. After losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to an early-season injury, they battled back to get into playoff contention. Shaky quarterback play late in the season left them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, however.
The Steelers did have some bright spots, however. One of them was on the defensive side of the ball — defensive end Bud Dupree. Here’s why keeping Dupree is the most essential offseason move for the Steelers.
Bud Dupree’s career numbers
Dupree played college football for the University of Kentucky. The Steelers selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. The move was lauded by NFL draft expert (and current Oakland Raiders general manager) Mike Mayock. At the time of the Steelers’ pick, Mayock said, “Dupree is a big, strong, fast, freakish athlete. He’s a height-weight-speed guy. He’s explosive, big, strong and fits what Pittsburgh does defensively.” Dupree’s athleticism was evident based on the fact that he played basketball in high school.
In his first two seasons, he only started nine games before being promoted to a full-time starter in 2017. Here’s what he’s been able to accomplish during his career so far:
- 70 games played
- 31.5 sacks
- 146 solo tackles
- Six forced fumbles
Dupree had a stellar season in 2019
The Steelers may have been disappointing in 2019, but Bud Dupree wasn’t. It was something of a breakout for the five-year veteran. Take a look at his 2019 stats:
- 16 games played
- 11.5 sacks
- 49 solo tackles
- Four forced fumbles
Dupree’s numbers were significantly better last year than they ever had been. He nearly doubled his previous season-high for sacks — he had never recorded more than six in a season before 2019. Dupree’s best game came in a Week 9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. He had two sacks and three solo tackles.
Dupree couldn’t have picked a better time for a career year as he heads into free agency. But the question now is whether the Steelers will do everything they can to hold onto the talented defensive lineman.
Why keeping Bud Dupree is key to the Steelers’ offseason
Dupree is a supremely talented pass rusher. He obviously can make an impact all by himself, as evidenced by his 11.5 sacks last year. But Dupree also gives the Steelers another edge when they’re trying to get to the quarterback.
T.J. Watt emerged as a premier pass rusher in the league this season. He’s sure to draw double teams regularly. With a player of Dupree’s caliber rushing the quarterback alongside him, it makes those double teams either impossible or less effective. Offensive lines will need to focus on containing either Watt or Dupree. They can’t stop both of them. With Dupree’s skill set, he makes it difficult to double team Watt. That gives Watt an added ability to get to the quarterback.
Dupree is an unrestricted free agent. That’s why to get him at the best value, it will likely make the most sense for the team to place the franchise tag on him. It’s not a long-term solution, but it will keep him in black and yellow for next year at least. Then the team can go about figuring out a longer extension for him.
The bottom line is that the Steelers are in a state of flux right now. To return to being one of the league’s most elite teams, they’ll need to secure the top talent they currently have on the roster. One of those people is Bud Dupree, and he should be priority number one this offseason.