The Steelers have had plenty of great outside linebackers over the years. They think their next one will be Bud Dupree.
A first-round pick in 2015, Dupree’s second season was marred by a groin injury suffered during offseason workouts. This year, he’s healthy and on track (the team hopes) for a huge season.
“I’m all with it,” Dupree said during the offseason workouts, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I like the pressure, but there really isn’t any pressure for me. It’s expectations. People expect me to be the guy, and they see a lot of good things in me.”
One of the team’s current great inside linebackers agrees.
“I definitely feel like [Dupree] can be a huge difference-maker for us,” Ryan Shazier said, according to Rutter. “He’s a big, huge guy. You’re not going to be able to run the ball on him. He’s going to keep his leverage so he can make plays. He brings a lot of things to the table that we didn’t have before. . . .
“It’s just good to see him healthy. Last year, he wasn’t really that way. Jumping on the train during the season is kind of hard. I know it was tough on him because I’ve had to do it a few times, going back and forth, back and forth.”
Last year, Dupree didn’t play until November. He arrived with a flourish, notching 2.5 sacks against the Browns. He finished the year with 4.5 sacks, second on the team to James Harrison’s five.
The fact that no Steelers player had more than five sacks last year is a bit of an eye-opener, and it helps explain why they hope Dupree can get it done in 2017. For now, like most players, he’s 100 percent. But we know that will change for most if not all players as the season unfolds.
The question is whether Dupree can stay healthy enough to do for 16 games what he did in only seven last year — and then some.