Steelers: Why is Bud Dupree fighting everyone in camp?


So if you haven’t heard Bud Dupree took on half the team this week in training camp. Fights during Steelers training camp are not a new thing. However there’s been a real drought this year. Bud Dupree might have made up for that gap all by himself this week.

The Steelers training camp is often a place where fights happen. Tomlin runs a very physical camp and occasionally tensions boil over. A hit turns into a scrap, a scrap turns into a full fledged fight. Not a bad one, just the regular sort of football practice fight. The pads come on early and come in contact often so this is only natural. This year there was a lack of fighting that bordered on suspicious.

That is, until Dupree started scrapping with anyone he could on Wednesday. Neal Coolong of DK Pittsburgh Sports reported that a few hours into practice Bud Dupree was rushing the passer and was engaged with Kelvin Beachum. Then the two started going at it. Dupree pushed it back into the other players where it looked like Ramon Foster had a word for him and then they started going at it.

Eventually Cam Heyward and James Harrison intervened. Apparently he even got confrontational with James Harrison at that moment. Then, a short time later during a drill where he was paired with Marcus Gilbert he smacked Gilbert and then those two started going at it. Joey Porter and Mike Tomlin broke this one up.

Dupree was apparently chatting quite a bit during practice and eventually Tomlin removed him from a drill and then from practice. Tomlin did not think much of it, reportedly saying, “It’s just football.”

Despite what on its face seems like some fairly hostile acts from the young rookie, against most of the starting offensive like and even his own unit mates, including future Hall of Famer James Harrison, his coaches and teammates seem to feel it was fine, or at least that’s what they’re telling the media.

To Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Gilbert said of the situation, ““We want to see a little nastiness and feistiness from him. Obviously, that’s the first time we’ve seen that from him. But he’s a guy who’s getting better every day and bringing a little edge to him. That’s what we like to see, obviously not the fighting but bringing the nastiness to his position.”

When asked if it went to far, Gilbert said it’s just part of playing football and trying to get better. He chalked it up to competitiveness, last days of camp and everyone wanting to make their mark. He also brought up all the positive interactions they’ve had, including him helping the rookie.

Dupree said of the fighting, “It just happened. Late in camp, no reason.”

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Roethlisberger, perhaps reflecting on the unusual lack of fights in training camp said, “About time. It’s the last week of camp. It was bound to happen. Once you leave the field, it’s over.”

So why the fighting and what does it mean? Perhaps no reason, and perhaps nothing. But I haven’t reached my word quota so let’s dig deeper.

Earlier in practice Joey Porter reportedly referred to Dupree as “you big dummy” when Dupree hit the wrong gap. Dupree had also reportedly appeared to feel disrespected by Gilbert at one point. After Dupree and Gilbert went at it, Foster and Joey Porter exchanged words, the topic of which was rookies knowing their place.

So all the clues here could suggest one of two things. Either Dupree was lashing out, feeling disrespected. Or he was trying to prove something to his teammates. It was either leave me alone on one hand or love me on the other.

Perhaps Dupree is not enjoying being a rookie. The teasing, the hazing, all of it. Maybe he doesn’t feel treated particularly well, or with much respect. This would seem to be backed up with Porter’s comments earlier calling Dupree a dummy loudly. Also his feeling toward Gilbert, and then again how the topic of the Porter/Ramon argument was Dupree knowing his place.

On the other hand, Gilbert expressed that it was a side of Dupree they had not seen yet, and even welcomed. Dupree has kind of been a non-factor for the first two preseason games. Some (people who are impatient to the point of questionable sanity) have even started wondering if he was a bust. Even though the Steelers have had many great linebackers and not one did well their rookie year, not in my lifetime anyway.

Tomlin and Ben’s comments seem to suggest they were indifferent or even relieved to have seen this. Gilbert as well. Dupree has appeared very patient about his own development in interviews. So it’s entirely possible that that the Steelers wanted to see, even provoked that fire out of Dupree just to see if he had it. And boy, does he.

Even though the Steelers camps always have a fight or two, it never ends up on the field in a real game. The players are still very disciplined in that regard. So I wouldn’t be concerned about that. I just wonder about the mental process of a player who takes on his whole team in a 15 minute span.

It’s tough to tell right now. What was Dupree trying to prove? Was he showing he doesn’t take any mess? Or was he showing he can be a great Steeler? And really, if you think about it, are those even two different things?

My take is this was a positive sign. The Steelers just aren’t an organization with a lot of infighting, so any element of that will probably be nipped in the bud. Then you’ll just be left with that fire. Let’s see if it shows up tomorrow. And even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of time for the young Steeler.

Next: Predicting the Steelers 53 man roster

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