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Analyzing how Bud Dupree’s hustle, not technique, is transforming the Steelers defense

Dupree picked up his first sacks of 2016 in his most extensive action since being activated from injured reserve.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Steelers have turned around their woeful early season sack numbers. After netting just 13 sacks through the first 9 games of 2016, the defense has notched 18 in the last 4 games. They happen to be the 4 games Bud Dupree has played in since being activated from the injured reserve list.

The timing of the increase in production with Dupree’s return is mostly coincidental. Case in point, Bud played only 1 snap in his first game (vs Browns) back. He has seen more playing time in subsequent games; however, with the Bills game resulting in Dupree playing all but 1 defensive snap. Bud responded by getting his first sack of the season, ending the game with 2 12 sacks (a scoring change credited Dupree with 12 sack that was originally credited solely to Sean Davis). We’ll take a look at those and how Dupree played overall.

Here is Dupree’s first sack:

We see that Dupree is pretty much stone-walled by Bills tackle Jordan Mills. As he works inside, Dupree does a good job of getting free from Mills when Taylor scrambled to his right. Dupree uses his burst to track down Taylor for the sack.

This is excellent awareness and hustle by Dupree. He didn’t beat his man, but kept working to make a play.

That hustle is on display in this next play, which resulted in Dupree’s second sack of Taylor:

Here we see a safety blitz by Mitchell (the Steelers ran this blitz with Sean Davis in the 1st quarter, with Davis and Dupree splitting a sack). Dupree works inside of the guard to get free and has a shot at Taylor. Credit Dupree with staying with the play. After he, Mitchell, Tuitt, Walton, and Harrison (Geez!!) missed tackle attempts, Dupree takes down Taylor from behind.

The design of the blitz, with Dupree slanting inside, helped create chaos in the pocket. This, along with Dupree’s effort, had as much to do with the result, as Dupree beating his man.

Although we usually expect to see the Steelers OLB’s on the line of scrimmage, defensive coordinator Keith Butler has utilized “4-3 looks” with increasing frequency this season. This results in one of the OLB’s lined up off the ball. This next play has Dupree in such an alignment:

Dupree does an excellent job of not over-reacting to the counter action. He keeps his eyes on Taylor, maintains his contain assignment, and forces the Bills’ QB to eat the ball.

I attempted to represent in the Film Room what we see from Bud Dupree’s game right now. He is a physically-gifted, high-motor, hustling player, who displays a growing awareness and understanding of the game. I included the play with Dupree off-the-ball, as the Steelers OLB’s are asked to play that way more often under Butler.

The primary role that the Steelers, and fans, want to see Dupree excel in is as an edge rusher. That is their single biggest weakness on defense. When I looked at the film from the Bills game, there truly was almost no instance where Dupree beat the offensive tackle one-on-one.

This is not to say I don’t like Dupree. It’s simply stating what the film shows. If you think that because he got 2 12 sacks against the Bills, Dupree is the pass rusher we were all hoping he would be when the Steelers drafted him, then you’re wrong. Can he get there? I believe he can. From all reports, Dupree is working hard at it. For now, it’s safe to say that Bud is a key component of a young defense on the rise.