Football is a physically demanding game. Regardless of your position, there are times when you simply must have a break. Outside of offensive linemen and quarterbacks, most positions require a rotation of sorts to keep players fresh. These rotations can be great, but can also show weaknesses in the depth on the roster.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are several positions which could be questioned as it pertains to depth. Safety and inside linebacker pop off the page, but according to Bud Dupree, who met with media via Zoom on Monday, outside linebacker isn’t one of them.
Dupree was asked about the depth at the position, and he admitted when he and counterpart T.J. Watt come off the field he has full faith and trust in Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and even rookie Alex Highsmith to still get the job done.
This per Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports:
Speaking of Highsmith, like Watt and many others, Dupree had glowing remarks about the rookie from Charlotte. He spoke about his athleticism, intelligence and overall ability as reasons why he labeled him as “ahead”.
This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Bud Dupree on Alex Highsmith: "Alex is ahead. He's doing real good. Smart kid, athletic, moves well. Eager to learn stuff. ... It's good to see how he came in prepared even during the pandemic."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 31, 2020
Dupree currently is playing under the one-year Franchise Tag, and even that is considered an uncertainty. Why? Because he and his agent have disputed the Steelers using the linebacker tag on Dupree, instead suggesting he should be labeled as a pass rushing defensive end.
The difference? A couple million dollars more.
The grievance filed by Dupree and his constituents has yet to be resolved.
Regardless of who is playing behind Dupree, or what position he is labeled, he is coming off a career year and knows the importance of him staying on that trajectory in 2020. Last year Dupree saw career highs in forced fumbles (4), fumble recoveries (2), sacks (11.5), tackles (68), tackles for loss (16), and quarterback hits (17). It was also the only season of Dupree’s career where he started every game.
Dupree is also coming off of a season where he played 91% of the Steelers defensive snaps. Coupled with T.J. Watt’s 87%, there is typically at least 250 defensive snaps available for the Steelers reserve linebackers even when the starters are healthy for the entire season.
The Steelers are hoping to make franchise history in 2020 by being recording 50 or more sacks in four straight seasons. Dupree, Adeniyi, Watt, Highsmith and possibly Tuzar Skipper will have a huge hand in whether this is a crowning achievement or a failed endeavor.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they roll through Training Camp at Heinz Field and prepare for the 2020 regular season.