With the reported news of Bud Durpee tearing his ACL, and consequently being lost for the season, Pittsburgh Steelers fans around the globe are wondering what the team will do.
Will they sign an outside linebacker like Clay Matthews or Cameron Wake to help fill the void?
Will Keith Butler deploy some crazy schemes to help the defense continue to get pressure on both sides of the line?
The list of questions range from personnel all the way to percentage of snaps played by specific players, but one answer is certain...
The Steelers won’t be looking to one player to fill the massive void left by Dupree.
Some will want the free agent acquisition, but the realistic approach is to fill this void in house. As Mike Tomlin always says, the standard is the standard.
So who, or how, will the Steelers help fix this issue? How will they develop a plan which won’t have T.J. Watt being double teamed, and chipped out of the backfield, on every single passing play?
It will be a group effort.
The first name on the list would be none other than rookie Alex Highsmith. Highsmith has seen his snaps increase throughout the season, and he will be called upon to hold the responsibilities Dupree held both as a pass rusher and in coverage. Highsmith has recorded 20 sacks, 1 sack and 1 interception through 11 games this season when Dupree needed rest.
But the Steelers won’t just rely on Highsmith, not in his first year in the NFL. Ola Adeniyi will also be called upon to see an increased role within the defense. Adeniyi has the pass rushing skills to get after the quarterback, along with the experience in the defense, and he should be a very nice compliment to Highsmith.
The ability to get one on one matchups on the edge also comes to the defensive end playing alongside the pass rusher. That would be none other than Cam Heyward. Heyward has had a great season, recording 36 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 interception throughout the 2020 campaign. Heyward will have to step up his game to give Highsmith and Adeniyi opportunities to create havoc in the opposition’s backfield.
When an offense is game planning for book end pass rushers, it can be a pick-your-poison proposition. Until Dupree’s injury, if you wanted to make sure Watt didn’t wreck your plans, Dupree would have the opportunity to do damage. Without Dupree it will be Watt who will be the focal point of the offense’s protection scheme.
This is where Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu will have a hand in the success, or struggles, of the defense moving forward. Tuitt being dominant, like he has been for most of the season, will free up Watt to roam free of double teams.
In other words, it will take a team to replace Dupree’s 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. The answer isn’t just one player, nor a free agent acquisition. The Steelers’ defense will have to prove their superiority by doing what they’ve done all season.
Play great team defense.
This defense has never been built around just one player, and their continued success will prove just that. Is the loss of Dupree a big blow to the group? Absolutely, but if the standard truly is the standard, then the Steelers’ defense will be just fine.