The Pittsburgh Steelers, and everyone involved, can admit that Bud Dupree hasn’t been the start he should’ve been.
The former first-round pick had high expectations when coming to Pittsburgh, but has yet to meet any. The 22nd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, out of Kentucky, was deemed the next best thing as an edge rusher in the Steel City. With unmatchable speed and jaw-dropping physical traits, Dupree’s ceiling was higher than most in his draft class.
Now, we’re here. Three seasons deep, a full injury-free season as a starter, and contemplating whether or not he’s worth a fifth-year extension. As Pittsburgh has continued to build a linebacking core around him that has excelled, Dupree remains the black sheep.
His 14.5 sacks over the last three years isn’t bad. But racking up four of them in his rookie season, while only starting five games, proves he could be doing a lot more as “the guy” off the edge. Add his 100 career tackles, and his resume through his rookie contract has been less than noteworthy.
So, when Pittsburgh sits down to think about the future of Bud Dupree, they’re not going to be excited about it. Each year, he’s inching closer into the Jarvis Jones category, and although he’s not a bust, yet, he’s certainly not someone to be thrilled about having in the starting lineup.
Here’s the problem, though. Who’s going to replace him? Unless Keith Butler and Joey Porter believe Anthony Chickello is ready to become an effective full-time starter, the Steelers’ options on the outside are slim.
They could look into the draft, but with a desperate need at inside linebacker, selecting one in the first round is a long shot. Then, depending on how they handle the Le’Veon Bell situation, a safety could be the the move in the second. If the team is serious about creating cap space to ink Bell to a long-term deal, Mike Mitchell could very likely be a cap casualty this spring.
Pittsburgh could use their third-round pick to find an instant starter on the outside, but without an answer at tight end, using a top three pick on a player that’s not a desperate need isn’t the logical move.
With their history, the likelihood of the Steelers using money in free agency to find a replacement isn’t even an option. Plus, if they’re looking to sign Bell, why would they hand someone else an appealing contract?
Really, as sad as it is, the Steelers will remain a puzzle piece short for the time being. Not that having Dupree on the outside makes or breaks the defense, but it definitely doesn’t help it much.
It’s a bad time to deal with a situation like this, but that’s part of sports. Not everyone pans out, but instead of dealing with a complete bust, Pittsburgh only has to focus on finding a replacement next season.
You never know, maybe this is the year all that training with Chuck Smith pays off. Probably not, but it’s nice to keep your hopes up until August.