Has Steelers OLB Bud Dupree been holding back all these years?

Tommy Jaggi
Bud Dupree #48 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Bud Dupree #48 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers got some excellent play from Bud Dupree in Week 1. Has he been giving his all since entering the league in 2015?

The Steelers defensive line put a whomping on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. While Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt were predictably excellent, Bud Dupree surprised many fans with his phenomenal play in Week 1.

Dupree, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft, played with his hair on fire in the opening game of the 2020 season. He was constantly disrupting both the run and the pass in the backfield, and his backside pursuit of the ball carrier was unmatched. The athletic edge defender played with a whole different level of energy and ferocity than what we are used to seeing out of him.

Has Dupree been holding back on Steelers?

It’s hard to be critical of Dupree’s performance on Monday night, and I’m not going to try to nitpick for negatives during that game – it was one of the best I’ve seen him play. However, his amped-up motor and relentless pursuit beg the question: Has he been holding back on the Steelers all of these years?

Over his first four seasons in the league, Dupree had never earned more than 6.0 sacks or 1 forced fumble in a single sesaon, despite being an every-down starter for a majority of that time frame. In his fifth year, however, Dupree broke out in a big way – earning 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 16 tackles for a loss. But even then, fans and analysts both questioned whether that burst in production was the result of him trying harder in a contract year.

It’s unclear how close Dupree and the Steelers were to getting a deal done this offseason, but chances are those talks never had a chance. Dupree clearly wants to be paid like a top edge defender and, with the cap situation being what it is, Pittsburgh needs to prioritize their extensions. As a result, the Steelers simply gave Durpee the franchise tag to retain his services for the 2020 season.

Now the same question we asked last season has popped up again. Because of the franchise tag, Dupree is truly in a contract year, and Pittsburgh wouldn’t dream of giving him the tag for the second year in a row due to the drastic spike in pay. Because of this, Dupree knows how much he can cash in on the open market with a good sesaon this year.

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I don’t want to accuse Dupree of giving 100 percent only when a massive payday is on the line, but his career has lined up that way so far. Maybe Dupree will come back down to earth soon, or maybe he’s been good all along. Let’s hope that he wasn’t just waiting for the right time to truly go all out.