When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Bud Dupree with the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, they did so knowing they had a future defensive star in their hands at the linebacker position. As the offseason progressed it was clear that Dupree was going to be called upon to mature on the field as a professional athlete much faster than the Steelers would like for him to be required to.
It became evident when Dupree received a significant amount of snaps in last week’s game against the New England Patriots. Determined to get their number one draft pick the on the job experience he needs, it paid off when Dupree made his first sack at the professional level in just three downs.
The sack occurred when Dupree was left virtually unblocked from the start of the play. As Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady began to scramble he would barely make it back to his own line of scrimmage. While the sack did not end in a loss of yards it did force the Patriots into a fourth down punting situation. We all have to start somewhere, right?
This isn’t to say Dupree was without his mistakes in his first professional game. Left to defend Rob Gronkowski, he seemingly let the tight end blow right by him instead of making a move to cover the pass. This looked to be one of the many miscommunication errors the Steelers suffered after looking lost nearly all game. It is something they must address immediately.
Being able to claim your first professional sack on a future Hall of Fame quarterback such as Brady is a nice addition to Dupree’s list of rookie achievements that has the potential to be quite long this season. After one game he already has a more promising rookie year than that of his teammate Jarvis Jones.
Jones would go ten weeks without a sack in his rookie campaign. It came when the Steelers faced off with the Buffalo Bills and he finally made a sack on quarterback EJ Manuel. Looking back it was more of a sigh of relief that Jones finally got to a quarterback than a feeling of excitement that the Steelers had a capable pass rusher on their depth chart heading into the future.
With his lone sack, Dupree leads all linebackers and defensive ends selected in the first round of this year’s draft in the statistic. Even without being listed as a starter in the lineup, such as rookies Vic Beasley and Shaq Thompson were for their first professional game, Dupree was able to use his ferocious first step to get into New England’s backfield rather quickly.
Steelers’ Nation expects to see many more plays similar to that before the end of the 2015 season. With the Steelers in desperate need to find stability in their linebacker corps, they do not have the luxury of slowing bringing their young talent into the system. The need for immediate results has the potential to pay out big in terms of grooming Dupree into a talented linebacker early in his career.
Dupree must be the Marcus Peters of the linebacker position. Peters, the Kansas City Chiefs first round cornerback selection, has an interception in each of his first two games this year. When you pick off a pass in the first snap of your professional career, you are out to make a statement to the whole NFL.
Dupree is more than capable of making a statement that can be heard by the 21 teams that overlooked him in the draft this year. Thought to be nothing more than a “workout warrior” that displayed flashy pro day skills to bring himself into notoriety, the Steelers knew he was much more than advertised when they made him a member of their team.
The Steelers return to Pittsburgh to play the San Francisco 49ers in the first significant game at Heinz Field since their heartbreaking wildcard loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season. With the loss of Anthony Davis to retirement and Mike Iupati to free agency, the Steelers can use this to their advantage and find ways to break through an offensive line that is relatively new to each other.
Being more elusive than Tom Brady, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be a difficult opponent to bring down in the backfield. If Bud Dupree can show more of the talent that he put on display last week, the Steelers will be well on their way to establishing their next generation of pass rushers….and their first win of the season.
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