By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- For the Pittsburgh Steelers, this Bud's for you.
First-round pick Bud Dupree, that is.
After missing the opening two days of rookie mini-camp, Alvin "Bud'' Dupree has hit the ground running. The 6-foot-4, 269-pound rookie outside linebacker took a couple days to graduate from the University of Kentucky, but Dupree has hit the ground running since he hit the practice fields this spring.
"Everything's been pretty crazy since I got here, and I'm doing whatever I can to keep up,'' Dupree said. "I'm studying my playbook, working hard in the weight room and trying to get my game in gear during OTA practices.''
Whatever Dupree gives the Steelers this season, it won't take much to be more than what the club's past two No. 1 picks have contributed. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the 2013 No. 1 pick, has had two lost seasons due to injuries and inexperience. Jones has played 21 games with 11 starts and tallied three sacks, four pass breakups and one forced fumble.
And last year's top choice, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, played just nine games with five starts. He recorded just one pass breakup.
"He's looked pretty good, but he has a lot to learn,'' Jones said. "I know what he's going through, and things probably are overwhelming. But I just tell him to control the things he can control, listen to the coaches and keep working hard. If he can take advantage of the opportunities he gets, he'll do just fine.''
How long Dupree takes to integrate into the Steelers defense is anyone's guess, but with veteran James Harrison as an apparent mentor he should be ready when it finally happens.
"He's strong, and he's a hard worker,'' Harrison said. "But he still has a lot to learn. It's too early to say right now, but we'll know more in training camp when we get the pads on.''
While Dupree eventually should get more snaps per game than Harrison, he has yet to match the former NFL defensive player of the year in the weight room.
"I don't think anyone can lift with him,'' Dupree said. "He's in his own lane. I'm just trying to stay in mine.''
The Steelers are hopeful that Dupree's lane this season is a direct route to opposing quarterbacks. The Steelers haven't had a player record 10 sacks since Harrison tallied 10.5 in 2010, 10 in 2009 and 16 in an amazing 2008 season. The Steelers also registered their fewest team sacks since 1989, but they are hopeful to increase that number measurably with healthy former No. 1 picks Jones and Shazier and newest No. 1 Dupree in the mix.
"My goal is to help the team as much as I can and in any way that I can,'' Dupree said. "Whether that's being a starter or as a backup outside linebacker, I'll do whatever the coaches need me to do. The best thing I can do is to put the team and my teammates first, and everything else will fall into place.''
Veteran Arthur Moats readily agreed.
"We're all here for the same goal,'' Moats said. "Sure, we're individuals, but at the same time the team concept overrides individuals. We're all about the team, and working together to make each other and the team better will be beneficial for the success of this football team.''
It wouldn't take much for the Steelers defense to be better than last season, but with young linebackers such as Dupree, Jones and Shazier in the mix, the sky's the limit for that group.