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Steelers News: Time for Bud Dupree to shine as the team’s dominant pass rusher

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are still searching for the dominant pass rusher to take over what James Harrison started. 2017 could prove to be Bud Dupree’s year to do just that.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to drafting linebackers in the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers might do it more than any other team in the NFL. However, they have traditionally had those outside linebackers who wreak havoc on the opposition.

Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene.
Jason Gildon and Joey Porter.
Joey Porter and Clark Haggans.
James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

And now there is just James Harrison left. Others have tried to step up and be the man, I’m talking about you Jarvis Jones, but failed. T.J. Watt is a rookie, but it is Bud Dupree’s turn to be the dominant force from the left side of the defense.

Can he do it? He has certainly built himself up to the task this offseason. Now it is time to put up the numbers we all think he can in 2017.

It is also time to get you caught up on all the Steelers news around the web:

...Then came last season, when he missed the first nine games because of a decision to forego hernia surgery in the spring in hopes it would heal on its own.

It didn’t. He was placed on injured reserve, had the surgery the first week of September and returned at mid-season.

Dupree came on strongly from that point, started four of the seven games in which he played and registered 4.5 sacks. But what might have he accomplished had the surgery taken place in the spring, when the injury was first diagnosed?

“He had the injury last year that was kind of our fault that he didn’t get to play, but when he came back he played good for us,” linebackers coach Joey Porter said. “I just need to know what that looks for 16 games. He gave us a good tease at the end and made some splash plays for us but I would love to have that from Week 1 through the playoffs.”

So would Dupree, who plans to play in his first preseason game of this summer Saturday at Heinz Field against the Indianapolis Colts. An ankle injury kept him out of the first two games and off the practice field much of training camp.

“I still practiced, I just fought through it,” Dupree said. “I didn’t want to risk it, to be ready for the season.”

He and Porter said he is all of that.

“Bud’s in a good situation where he’s in his third year,” Porter said. “We definitely expect big things.”

Said Dupree, “It’s going to be a great year, definitely,” adding that his goals are to get “as many tackles and sacks as I can.”

Backup quarterback Landry Jones is expected to see his first action of the preseason Saturday night after injuring a stomach muscle making a throw the first week of training camp.

Jones, who returned to full practice Wednesday, said he wants to play against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.

“It’s good now,” Jones said. “I’m hoping to play this week; as long as the week keeps going the way it did today it should be all right.”

Rookie Josh Dobbs and free-agent Bart Houston have taken all the snaps in the first two preseason games. Ben Roethlisberger will make his first appearance of the preseason against the Colts and will likely play no more than two series.

His holdout will end Sept. 1. Now starts one of Le’Veon Bell’s biggest jobs — to rebuild his image among fans that plummeted over the past month, according to one expert.

Bell, the Steelers record-breaking Pro Bowl halfback, has damaged his brand by not turning up for the Steelers’ practices in the spring or training camp and declining to sign his one-year, $12.12 million contract as their franchise tag, Eric Schiffer said.

Bell said on Twitter Monday night that he will return to the team Sept. 1.

“I think he has inflicted damage on his reputation,” said Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants of Irvine, Calif.

Why?

“Because fans want to see players play. The average fan has a hard time relating to someone passing on the kind of immense income these players get when people are struggling to put food on the table.

“So there is a challenge for the average fan to relate fully to some of the posturing, and I think there’s a bit of resentment that a certain population of the fan base has for players who have incredible talent but are making these choices that are just seemingly stratospheric in terms of dollars for the average person and they can’t relate.”

Brief and to the Point ...

• Positive reinforcement can be OK, too.

There's been no more significant development over the Steelers' summer, at least not from this perspective, than Martavis Bryant being cleared to return to the NFL, then reporting in exemplary shape and producing extraordinary play after extraordinary play.

No, not Sunday against the Falcons, of course. His preseason debut at Heinz Field saw one 3-yard catch, another for 20 and an end-around where he was clocked so hard the ball popped loose.

It didn't go all that great.

At least it would seem that way until you see the man smile.

“I’m just so blessed right now, so happy to be back on that football field,” Bryant was telling me as part of a long talk he and I had afterward. “I’m out there with my teammates, my brothers, our fans … after everything that’s happened over the year, that’s just how I feel. I made a couple catches, took a hit … whatever. It’s beautiful to be back out there playing football.”

I don’t have too fine a point here: I’m just not worried about him.

James Conner came into his first NFL preseason game knowing that he would get a lot of carries to show what he has, but maybe he was a little too excited.

Sometimes, when a football player is excessively eager to make big plays, he’ll miss the simple ones right in front of him. That seemed to be the case Sunday at Heinz Field. Conner gained 98 rushing yards on 20 carries in the Steelers’ 17-13 victory over the Falcons, with most of his success coming in the second half.

Several plays provided opportunities for Conner, some of which he seized, but others where he looked too locked-in on what he thought would be there to even see what actually transpired.

Todd Haley‘s offense runs several zone-blocking schemes for the ground game, often leaving the call to the running back to decide which gap to attack based on which linemen are winning their spots. Early in the game, you saw Conner running into the scrum of the offensive and defensive lines and not mustering much: His first five carries went for 13 yards. While some of it had to do with solid line work from the Falcons, holes were visible.