The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tough decision to make in the near future. The decision is on Bud Dupree’s 5th year option with the team. As a first round draft pick, since 2011, the organization has an option to keep control of these top selections for at least another season.
For Pittsburgh, they have utilized their 5th year option on every first round pick since, except for Jarvis Jones. Could Dupree be the second player who is shown their future isn’t with Pittsburgh, by the team not committing to him that extra year?
The fact this is an actual question very well could be your answer, and it means edge rusher is again a position of need for the team heading into the offseason. In fact, some are still suggesting the Steelers’ need for a dominant pass rusher is the true missing piece of the overall puzzle for the defense.
This from Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com when it comes to what the team needs to do to be in Super Bowl 53 next season:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Find another edge rusher.
It was hard to blame James Harrison for wanting to play more this season, as he sat behind some uninspiring edge players in Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo. While the Steelers found a gem in first-round pick T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh’s defense was toothless late in the season because it lacked edge pressure. Since the Steelers should spend the salary cap space necessary to retain running back Le’Veon Bell, the team’s pass-rush need is likely to be filled through the draft.
So, according to Rosenthal, and plenty of others, you can tack up outside linebacker high on the team needs list, along with inside linebacker and safety. You can put them in any particular order, but the one glaring aspect of this scenario is how poorly the Steelers select at the edge rusher position. If Dupree doesn’t pan out, you can put him up there with Jarvis Jones as two first round busts in the past 5 years.
For as good as the Steelers are at drafting wide receivers, they are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum when drafting pass rushers.
There is more here than what Rosenthal points out above. Personally, I don’t believe the missing piece of the puzzle is a pass rusher, not in the scheme the Steelers deploy weekly. No, I feel the need is up the middle at inside linebacker and safety. If the team can fill Ryan Shazier’s position with speed and athleticism, and a safety who can not only play the run, but also play in space, it will help conceal any leaks the team had this past year.
Would another edge rusher hurt the defense? Absolutely not, but Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin require their outside linebackers to drop into space so much there isn’t as much of a need for those pass rusher to win on an every down basis. Due to Dupree’s athleticism this could also be a reason why the team might keep him around for at least his 5th year option.
Either way, the Steelers’ overall needs on defense should include an edge rusher, but over inside linebacker and/or safety? I don’t think so.