clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Has Steelers OLB Bud Dupree finally turned the corner in his career?

Looking at Bud Dupree’s productive day rushing the passer.

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Bud Dupree had a good game against Kansas City with two sacks, a pass defended and a few tackles and hurries. There has been some excitement from it that maybe, just maybe, Dupree is finally turning into the pass rushing demon his athleticism says he could become.

In the film room today we are going to take a look at his day and whether he’s added any new skills and tricks to his arsenal, or if it is just the same value he’s always brought and things just worked out for him to get stats this week.

Play 1. Bud is the defender on the line closest to the top of the screen

This is the Bud Dupree we are used to, run fast, push hard, move the tackle into the pocket restricting the QB’s room but not really impacting the QB. Notice how high he is in his rush, his arms are long and he’s just pushing. This is the Bud Dupree that has frustrated Steeler fans for years. Notice his head isn’t up, he’s not 2-gapping, he’s just pushing the tackle into the QB.

Play 2: Second from top on the line

This time Bud is more aggressive with his speed rush, but Eric Fisher wraps him up good and the Guard gets a good block on Cam and the QB escapes. This is when Bud is not valuable. Again, this is what we’ve always seen from Bud Dupree, when he gets too vertical in his attack he doesn’t have a counter to come back to the inside and exploit/fill that space. He never showed an inside counter in this game, it still isn’t there.

Play 3: Top of the line, Barron steps outside him right before the snap

Skipping ahead in the game to the first sack. Still Eric Fisher at LT, still Cam Heyward at DT. Bud runs a stunt with Cam, driving in between the Tackle and Guard, and when the Tackle switches to cover Cam the Guard doesn’t have enough of Dupree to stop him from getting to the QB. Bud gets a sack here because he is strong and hits the Guard in his side so he can’t block Dupree one on one. This is a frequent attack the Steelers use, and it’s a good one because Cam has the quickness and strength to make the Guard and then the Tackle commit to him. If Bud is beside the Guard when they trigger the stunt it is a nightmare to defend, because Bud’s skill doesn’t matter, he’s powerful enough that you can’t block him with one arm, and you have to respect Cam on the stunt.

Play 4: Third from top, inside the 2 DBs

It doesn’t always work. Here the Chiefs slide protection to Bud and Cam’s side. With 4 blockers on 3 rushers they don’t have to worry as much because they have help, the key for the O-Line is to stick together and just be a wall. Because Cam can’t get the guard to engage him at all before Bud cuts, the guard is in position to block Bud and the tackle gives Bud a push and blocks Cam. Look at the previous play again, Bud needs that gap between the tackle and guard to make this stunt work. Bud is valuable in stunts like this because tackles drop quickly to counter his speed, and the guard rarely wants to face Cam with a head of steam because he’ll bull rush you straight into your QB. So the tackle dropping quickly to counter Bud’s speed and the guard engaging Cam early in the play create a nice gap for Bud to attack one side of the guard. Getting the full brunt of the defenders rush against one arm of the offensive lineman is the goal of most pass rush moves and schemes, and that’s what this stunt aims to do for Bud. In this play, however, the center is there to help so the tackle and guard stay close enough to just switch, Bud is facing the guard straight up, and Cam is facing the tackle straight up, they are less dangerous here than just normally rushing. This is the perfect way to stop this stunt, but sliding the line to Bud and Cam’s side leaves the right tackle to deal with TJ Watt with no help and a lot of space for TJ to utilize. TJ wasn’t his normal self this game, so it worked fine for the offense.

This stunt takes advantage of Bud’s strength but also his weakness. Tackles over-commit to his speed rush because there’s almost no threat of a counter move, they aren’t afraid of that gap because he doesn’t have the tools to exploit it himself. Stunting with Cam is Butler creating a tactical counter for Bud in lieu of an actual pass rush counter move. Cam isn’t a threat to bend the corner any more than Bud is, but you can’t leave him totally unblocked or your QB is going to be buried, and it the tackle is slow to switch Cam is rushing against one arm of your tackle, and you don’t want that. If Bud can attack one half of the guard the stunt has generated a pass rush win for the Steelers. I can’t emphasize enough that Cam outside isn’t a big threat to the QB, the main advantage they are looking for with this stunt is Bud Dupree versus one arm of the guard. It may not work a lot, but it forces the offensive line to respect it, and that makes blocking both Bud and Cam harder.

Play 5: Top of the line

This one is almost as funny as it is sad. It’s really hard to see but Bud does a spin move in this play. He spins completely around, right before he engages the tackle. Fisher watches him spin and then blocks him.

In case you don’t know, you want to make contact before you spin, then you spin off of the blocker, you don’t spin into the blocker or it doesn’t do anything at all. All those blocking dummies in his cool looking training videos don’t move, and Dupree hasn’t figured out how to translate his spin move from training dummies to moving linemen.

It’s funny because it is such a Bud Dupree moment, it’s sad because if he had a legit spin move he would have a really good counter move to his speed rush and he could be that very dangerous pass rusher we hear about every off-season. He is still not that guy, and he probably never will be.

Play 6: Bottom of the line

This isn’t Eric Fisher anymore, but Cam Erving is one of the Chiefs top backups and he has started more games than he hasn’t in the last 3 years. Bud wins this one easily as the tackle hops a bit and doesn’t get far enough back to counter Bud’s speed and Bud is able to pull his hands down and blow past him. If you consider the stunt they run a good bit, the Tackle is in a really good location and angle to defend that stunt, as Bud would have to crash through the tackle to get to the guard. I don’t know if that factored into the tackle’s execution or if it was a mistake, but it helped Bud because as soon as Bud gets past the Tackles right arm it’s his force versus half the blocker, and he’s able to turn that into a win.

There’s more to this rush though. Look at Bud cut hard inside as soon as he clears the tackle, we don’t see that from him much, and it could be an actual sign of his pass rush training paying off. He’s still not dipping and ripping and bending the corner, but if he can attack the OT’s hands and turn the corner a bit more effectively he should get a few sacks from it, and really, 2-3 more sacks a year would put him in much better numbers. This is something to watch for as the remainder of the preseason and into the season.

Play 7: Bottom of the line

Here is one of the problems Bud Dupree frequently has, he fails at timing the snap and jumps offside. This is a problem that stems from Bud having to use his speed at his main threat without a good countermove. He needs that tackle to be slower off the snap than he is, he needs it to get past his right arm, he needs it to force those deep sets that set up him stunting with Cam. When speed is your only real weapon, getting a jump on the snap is a big deal. Failing and jumping offside is also a big deal.

Even with Bud’s limitations in pass rush moves, if he can stunt with Cam well, and take advantage when the Tackle is a bit slow cutting off his speed rush (or takes a bad angle because he’s worried about a stunt) Bud will be a weapon the Steelers can continue to use in their pass rush.

Keep in mind that in this game T.J. Watt looked like he wasn’t 100% back from injury. I would expect Bud to record more sacks with T.J. not producing, based on the number of times Bud was the second player to the QB last year. I don’t think that was a factor in his 2 sacks in this game, but if TJ continues to struggle expect Bud to record more sacks.

Conclusion: Bud mostly showed the same skill set he has shown in the past. His athleticism and limited rush worked better against backups, and he made a few nice plays in run defense and showed his athleticism making several plays in coverage. Maybe his second season on the right side will show improvement after playing on the left almost exclusively in college and the first three years of his NFL career. I expect that any improvement we see from Bud will come more from his level of comfort and improvements across the defense lifting everyone, and do not expect to see that he has matured into a dangerous pass rusher. I hope this film session also helps people see the ways Butler is using Bud in a collapse and contain role and also turning his deficiencies into a weapon with his rush schemes.