Coming off a 2016 season in-which he amassed 4.5 sacks in seven games after spending the first nine weeks on the Injured Reserve list recovering from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia, there seemed to be genuine excitement for the Steelers 2015 first round pick, outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
But even though he had the best year of his career--15 starts, 40 combined tackles and six sacks--Dupree was far from a fan favorite by season’s end.
Many fans began examining his label, meaning should it be changed from “Great Potential,” to “Bust”?
Was Dupree heading down the same road as Jarvis Jones, the team’s 2013 first round pick who failed quite tellingly in his attempt to successfully follow in the footsteps of so many legends who had previously manned the outside linebacker spot for the Steelers’ organization?
If you’re familiar with the career of Jones, he of the six sacks in four seasons with Pittsburgh, you know the Steelers did not pick up his fifth-year option heading into the 2016 campaign (an organization must exercise that option on a former first round pick after three years).
Considering those aforementioned statistics, it was certainly no surprise.
Group think being what it is, I just had this funny feeling Dupree, like Jones before him, would see his fourth campaign turn into a contract year, and he’d have to go to great lengths in 2018 to show that he deserved to be a Steeler in 2019 and beyond.
Dupree obviously still has to prove himself (what NFL player never has to stop proving himself?), but on Monday, it was made official that he’ll have two more years to really blossom into the kind of outside linebacker the team envisioned when it made him the 22nd overall selection out of Kentucky three springs ago.
That’s right, general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin (and anyone else within the organization tasked with the responsibility of betting on former first round picks still on their rookie contracts) have decided to pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option.
”We’re excited about where Bud can be in these next two years,” said Colbert on Monday, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We had no hesitation in making that move when we did it.”
It’s no surprise Colbert would go on record as saying he’s excited about one of his young charges--a prospect he obviously had a huge hand in evaluating and drafting--but after seeing so many negative reactions to Dupree’s play last year, I didn’t think I’d see that quote attached to a news release announcing a picked up option year.
”We’re comfortable he’s going to meet the challenge,” Tomlin added.
Comfortable enough to not address outside linebacker with a high enough draft choice that Dupree will have to constantly look over his shoulder next season?
If that were to happen, that sure would be confusing.
The biggest defense of Dupree’s play in 2017--if one has to defend a player who posted a career high in sacks--was that he was asked to drop back into pass coverage about 75 percent of the time.
It’s no secret defensive coordinator Keith Butler asks his outside linebackers to drop back into pass coverage more often than Steelers outside linebackers did in the past. Therefore, six sacks might be the norm for that position moving forward (first round pick T.J. Watt posted seven a year ago).
While he certainly needs to polish his game and round out his skill-set, I’m not willing to give up on Dupree just yet.
I’m far from a football expert, but I think I know a bust when I see one, and I do not see one in Alvin “Bud” Dupree.
And if you don’t believe me, ask his bosses.