Bud Dupree Raises the Ceiling of the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Bud Dupree was drafted with the 22nd pick in the 2015 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The outside linebacker from Kentucky was supposed to boost the Pittsburgh pass rush. Drafted to eventually fill the void to be left by veteran James Harrison, Dupree was eased into his rookie season. He made five starts, playing 50.8% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps.

Pittsburgh’s inability to get after the passer has been it’s biggest downfall from Steelers teams of the past. The aforementioned Harrison led the team in sacks this season at age 38 with five. The last Steeler to amount more than 7.5 sacks in a season was Jason Worlds in 2013. The last Steeler to hit double digit sacks? LaMarr Woodley and Harrison both were in double digits in 2010.

Bud Dupree Raises the Ceiling of the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Dupree’s Sheer Athleticism

Coming out of Kentucky, Bud Dupree was known for his freakish athleticism. At the NFL combine in 2015, Dupree ran a 4.59 in the 40 yard dash (second among linebackers) despite weighing in at 269 pounds. He was the best linebacker in the broad jump (11 feet, 6 inches) and the second bast linebacker in the vertical jump (42 inches). His speed off the line was on display with this hit on Alex Smith last week, giving Ryan Shazier an easy interception.

Fellow Steeler linebacker Arthur Moats had this to say to media following the victory against Kansas City:

“The sky is the limit for that guy. He has the perfect size/speed combo. You look at all the top linebackers, you look at Von Miller, you look at Khalil Mack. He fits that same type of mold.”

While not the quickest to diagnose plays, Pittsburgh was hoping to get exactly this type of speed rushing ability from Dupree.

Dupree began this season on injured reserve with a groin injury, an issue that caused him to sit out all of the preseason. He finally made his first appearance in a week 11 victory against Cleveland, starting the final four games of the regular season.

“Him coming back to our team just lifted us up so much in terms of motivation with the type of play that he brings,” fellow pass rusher Stephon Tuitt had to say. “He’s energetic, and he delivers some hard hits out there.”

Matt Moore would not disagree.

The Steelers Defense With and Without Dupree

Statistics back up Tuitt’s statements. Prior to Dupree’s return, the Pittsburgh defense ranked 20th in the league by DVOA. They finished the regular season ranked 9th. With Dupree in the lineup, the Steelers defense has given up only 17 points a game. His pass rushing has helped the defense to hold opponents to and average of only 195 passing yards per game. More importantly than statistics, the Steelers have not lost a game this season with Bud Dupree on the field. With so many veterans rushing the passer in Pittsburgh, Dupree’s development and ability to stay healthy will be critical for the Steelers defense moving forward.

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