In 2015, The Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed another efficient season that saw them finish 10-6 and one fumble away from the AFC Championship game, most of this was accomplished on the back of an electric offense and young-improving defense. While the offense figures to be just as electric in 2016, the Steelers are counting on their young defense to make the next step, specifically their second year outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
Bud Dupree’s rookie season was a tale of two halves. The 23 year old had 4 sacks by the mid season mark but Dupree then failed to register another sack for the rest of the season. Pro Football Focus gave Dupree a 44.9 pass rush score which ranked in the bottom 10 for edge defenders.
Dupree struggled mightily in a large part of his rookie season but this a common theme surrounding rookies making a transition from a 12 game college season to the long, competitive 16 game NFL season. Dupree recognizes that he hit the ‘rookie wall’ last season and is better prepared for his sophomore season, as he tells The Pittsburgh Post Gazzette.
“I just was not being used to playing that many games, it took a toll on my body. Now I’m more prepared for that. I’ve been training longer, doing different things that I didn’t have the time to do coming from college. Just a lot of little minor things you need to do, just looking at guys like James Harrison, guys who really take care of their body, following their lead.”
When a newly conditioned Dupree arrives to training camp, the only individual standing in-between him and the starting LOLB role is Arthur Moats. Moats, a 28-year old veteran shared a 50/50 rotation at LOLB with Dupree last season, with Moats playing 605 snaps and Dupree playing 670 snaps. Coming into this season, expect the needle to sway more into Dupree’s favour, possibly a 60-40 split or 70-30 depending on performance.
With training camp and preseason just around the corner, both the Steelers and Dupree remain optimistic in the second year pro’s development. Dupree is being counted on to solidify the Steelers outside linebacker position with the potential departures of Jarvis Jones and James Harrison after the 2016 season.