We’ve all heard the saying...
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
This is certainly true in many aspects of life, and if you just happen to be an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it applies to you too.
Bud Dupree was a first round draft pick and came into the league with some extremely high standards attached to his name. Did he live up to the hype? I think it is safe to say most would say ‘No’ at this point, but there is still time for Dupree to prove how it just took him some time to fully mature into a pure pass rusher.
Dupree’s rookie year he ended the season with 4 sacks, making most believe the best was yet to come. In 2016, a year where he started just 7 games due to injury, he registered 4.5 sacks. More production in half the playing time, there was hope.
Another baby step forward took place in 2016 with 6 sacks, but a giant disappointment came in 2018 when he registered just 5.5 sacks throughout a full 16 game season.
I realize outside linebackers aren’t measured solely by their sack totals, but whenever someone talks about how a 3-4 OLB is going to be called to drop into coverage, how do you explain T.J. Watt reaching double-digit sack totals last season? He certainly had to drop into coverage too.
If you ask Dupree, he claims he is improving, but just needs to learn how to ‘close’.
“I had a big opportunity last year to be in the conversation and I didn’t close the plays,” Dupree told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m always in position. The plays are always there; it’s on me to finish those plays and easily have double-digit sacks. I’m trying to go out and reboot and finish those plays this season.”
When you look at Dupree’s current contractual status, he better hope he closes on those sacks soon. The Steelers elected to pick up his 5th year option, paying him over $9 million dollars for the 2019 season, but after this year he is a free agent if the Steelers don’t want him back.
Let me rephrase that, if the Steelers don’t see more production from Dupree in 2019, there is a very good chance he will be unemployed come March of 2020.
If you go back and watch the film, Dupree isn’t wrong in his summation of the season. He was close on numerous occasions, often just missing the sack. There were times it wasn’t a backside blocker who picked him up — he just whiffed.
Dupree’s success could dictate a lot of the success the entire defense experiences in 2019. Think if Dupree was finishing on plays, and what that could do not only for Watt, but the other pass rushers. There would be more one-on-one matchups to exploit, and that is always a good thing.
Dupree’s success is vital not just to his future with the team, but to the success of the 2019 defense. Let’s hope he starts to ‘close’ on some of those plays this upcoming season.