2017 Midseason Player Evaluations: OLB Bud Dupree

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.

The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.

The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.

Player: Bud Dupree, OLB

I don’t think anybody could accuse the Steelers of failing to invest in the outside linebacker position. They have drafted three of them in the first round since 2013, and two of them are currently starting for them.

Both of them have had their issues this season—they each missed one game so far due to injuries—but they have also flashed moments of success. Rookie T.J. Watt has been a pleasant surprise, but the real hopes and dreams for this season were placed in 2015 first-rounder Bud Dupree’s basket.

He was supposed to have his breakout season a year ago, but it was derailed completely by a groin injury that kept him on injured reserve for most of the year. He recorded a quick four and a half sacks in the final four games of the regular season, though, and made a couple of plays in the postseason.

This year, he has had to deal with a shoulder injury. It caused him to miss the opener, and he has spent most of the season getting pain injections before games, but the hope is that he is getting to a place where that won’t be necessary now and he can just go out there and play.

The third-year man does have 19 tackles and three sacks, to go along with a pass defensed. He has clearly made improvements rushing the passer, even if his improvements have been employed inconsistently.

He is still spending a bit too much time getting run up the arc, but he has learned to use counter moves, and he has been effective on stunts. His sack a couple of weeks ago looked like he was shot out of a cannon, such is his pure athleticism.

Still, he and others are hoping for a reset and a fresh start on the bye. He has done a mostly solid job this season, but he is not supposed to be a solid player. He is supposed to be an impact player, generating pressure and helping to force turnovers. That’s the player they need him to be.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jaybird

    Bud is a spectacular athlete, but I don’t think he’s ever going to be a great edge rusher. i don’t think he’ll ever be a double digit sack guy, but he’s still a great athlete and wIll contribute by get hustle sacks. He hits like a freight train also. I actually get more upset when I see him getting pushed around and not setting the edge on run plays

  • Michael James

    Like Jaybird just said: Bud is a phenomenal athlete who will always get some hustle sacks.
    I really root for him to finally develop into a good football player/edge rusher, but unfortunately it may slowly be time to bury that hope. He simply has shown very little progress in pass rushing technique, cornering and counter moves. It’s frustrating and I honestly don’t know if there is a second pass rusher in the NFL that gets run up the arc with Bud’s consistency.

  • ryan72384

    Yeah Bud has not been as disruptive as I had hoped he would be this year. I was on the Bud bandwagon after he had a solid couple of games at the end of last year and then in the playoffs but he’s just too inconsistent. He has insane athleticism. His sack last week or the week before was the kind very few outside linebackers can make. For the most part though he either gets stonewalled or run up the arc. He hasnt developed a spin or much of a dip which is disappointing considering he has the athletic build and bend for passhrushing moves. I still wish he would have kept the weight on that he had coming out. I think a 265ish outside linebacker with 4.5 speed is better to have than a 245ish linebacker with 4.5 speed that gets pushed around far too often. Not sure why the coaches wanted him so light but he honestly looks so much smaller now than he did as a rookie. TJ looks bigger and stronger than Bud already.

  • NinjaMountie

    I was high on Dupree when we drafted him. I changed my opinion on him in the off season, though. I told my buddy he’d be an adequate OLB that will get about 7 sacks a year and they’d almost all be of the hustle variety. I’m also curious if he has an inability to drop into coverage and if that’s why we’re dropping Watt so much. If so, that will annoy me more.

  • Dshoff

    I see no difference in Dupree this year after his offseason of work with his great pass rush teacher, which is VERY dissappointing. I’d like to know which shoulder is hurt. If it’s his right shoulder then that may be the excuse why he is constantly getting pushed past the qb. But if that’s the case then why even use him in that way? He’s only effective if he stunts inside or is getting blocked by a rb. I know Harrison usually plays the right side, but I’d love to see them use him on the left at times. It certainly can’t hurt. This reminds me of when they stubbornly played Blake when he had a hurt shoulder and was stinking up the place.

  • capehouse

    His athleticism is outstanding and really made a heady play in the Detroit game in knocking down the TE as Stafford rolled out which really surprised me, but he’ll never come close to being a dominant pass rusher. Best used on stunts. Hate to say it but just an athletic Jarvis Jones that’s probably not as good against the run but that athleticism does get him some sacks as opposed to Jones.

  • Brenton deed

    Do you suppose he lacks some Lloyd type “animal”?

  • Jaybird

    I just don’t think he has good pass rush moves and doesn’t counter particularly well either. He gives a decent effort , has a good motor, but isn’t a very good pass rusher.

  • Mark

    He is always trying to rush around the tackle instead of engaging sometimes with a bull rush, or swimming, or spin move. He only uses speed to rush up the arc. Come on Bud let’s get physical with the defensive tackles.

    However, if he hits the QB it’s going to hurt. Ask Matt Moore!

  • Kevin Reich

    Easily my most disappointing defensive player.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    let’s see if he can redeem himself in the second half if the season and the playoffs.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Am i the only person thinking that Dupree might be better on the inside? His straight ahead speed might br utilized better in themiddle.

  • Gautama Om

    Agree but at least he can only get better.

    I personally would like to give Chickillo more play time so we can:

    1) push Dupree since he think’s he owns the position by default
    2) and see if Chickillo can play better than Dupree since his game doesn’t rely on athleticism as much…more like a poor man’s TJ Watt

  • Nathanael Dory

    Im with you on this one. Im slowly losing faith that he can be an effective pass rusher mostly when you see TJ Watt showing more moves than him after one year of playing OLB

  • Nathanael Dory

    I dont think so. He is an athlete but not a fluid one

  • Ichabod

    I think it appropriate to mention that the sack a couple of weeks ago was against a rookie running back who made a mistake.
    Does he have any sacks against tackles?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    With his speed, I would definitely be using more stunts and games. That, along with a spin move and he could easily get 10 sacks a year. Throw in the occasional Vincenzo or Shaz blitz and the D would provide constant pressure. Nonstop!

  • Ross McCorkle

    Ehh… I think that’s jumping the gun. He hasn’t even played 2 full seasons worth of games yet and he has 11.5 sacks.

    Also, the shoulder injury is a huge detriment to the cause. Aside from the physical limitations that comes with, it also can get in your head and you might not trust certain movements. It forces you to be conscious and think about something other than just your assignment etc.

    I remember when I played ball I felt invincible until my injury and to this day I don’t trust my previously injured knee with certain things.

    Arrow is still pointing up for young bud.

  • Ross McCorkle

    I’d look at that as a positive for young watt. Not a negative for Mr. Bud

  • Ross McCorkle

    Our defense is built on speed and athleticism. Also, less chance of soft tissue injury with the shed weight.

  • Michael James

    If it only were that easy…

  • Ross McCorkle

    That’s so far from the truth. Bud has 11.5 in 30 games. Jarvis has 6 in 50. Bud has had some unfortunate injuries, Jarvis was pretty much healthy besides that wrist iirc.

  • Michael James

    Alex’ reports from training camp seem to suggest that Dupree can’t cover. If I remember correctly he was by far the worst LB in the coverage drills.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    He’s a very versatile player, but he’s gotta succeed outside.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think this is where I am now. Always thought he was 7 sack type of guy, but hype got me thinking he could be more and I think that’s where you and I disagreed a few weeks ago. Maybe his shoulder is an issue, but it looks like he just isn’t progressing as a pass rusher. Wish I could combine his athleticism with Carl Lawson’s hand usage.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The first one against the Vikings came against RT Mike Remmers if I recall correctly.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    When the tackles get their hands on him it’s game over. The inside twisting stunts seem to be the best way for him to get pressure on the qb.

  • Steve Johnson

    Three years in the league, still with only one pass rush move. Another Bust at OLB.

  • capehouse

    I don’t see how your points disagree with mine, except I’ll give you the injuries. When healthy he’s not a natural pass rusher.

  • Ichabod

    Well then, there you go. Thanks. I think another was on a stunt where he looped inside.
    We could certainly use him living up to his potential.

  • Dshoff

    Yeah, that was GREAT when he knocked that TE on his butt, I have to give it to him on that one.

  • Dshoff

    I swear it is mental with Bud. He wants to get around the tackle without the tackle even touching him. That might have worked in college but it won’t work in the NFL. He not only has to expect contact, but he should be initiating it by plowing into the tackle after beating him with the speed.

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    a shoulder injury will limit a lot of technique and power for an olb or any lb for that matter. I think he will look better when tuitt comes back as well. Alualu is a good player but he is not tuitt or Heyward who watt gets to play behind. Steelers arr set at olb fpr ueats to come. Watt may very well be the better but why the concern. They are both very young a talented

  • MC

    I don’t think this guy is ever going to be a great pass rusher that lives up to his draft position.

    Not only does he run up the arc too much but on the plays where he doesn’t he just stops and plays patty cake with the lineman. He is completely scared of contact with bigger guy and thats why i am yet to see him plant his foot and attempt to drive a tackle back into the QB. He does not even try to convert speed to power. I wish we grabbed Lawson while we had the chance because i had a feeling even after last season that Bud wasn’t going to improve on his rush technique. He just looks like a more athletic Jarvis Jones.

    Pretty much every sack of his has been a hustle sack or a play like against the chiefs where a lineman blows their assignment and he runs free. thats the only way he’s going to win. Forget him beating a RT within a few seconds. I’ve noticed tackles set up for his outside rush because thats all he has and so he is constantly neutralised. I think Joey Porter is on the hot seat if he can’t get a guy with this much athleticism to be a solid rusher.

    Easily the biggest disappointment on this defense.

  • The Truth

    That’s the first time I have heard someone use hustle to describe Dupree.

    I pretty much agree with your post. He is an athlete more than he is a football player. He will be an average OLB who will make a splash play once in awhile, but mostly he will disappear.

    Yes, his gap assignments and setting the edge leave a lot to be desired.

  • The Truth

    But Watt really isn’t getting after the QB yet. I am really hoping he starts showing he can be a consistent force rushing the QB.

  • The Truth

    I am thinking you used the same excuses for Jones when he was here. Granted, Dupree is better than Jones, but he has a long, long way to go. So far he has been a disappointment.

  • The Truth

    Dupree doesn’t really hustle. He uses his short burst to get to the QB, but if doesn’t get there he is done trying. Watch him in the Bears’ game. On the long run gain(4th quarter) toward Dupree’s side you see Dupree just jog. He had no drive to get the running back. Watt came form the other side to help out.

  • The Truth

    Yep. Which makes you really wonder why Harrison rides the bench. Harrison’s weak spot is coverage, but he is not bad at it. It just happens to be the weakest part of his game.

  • Carl Mendelius

    Greatness in Dupree is just wishful thinking. I have not seen any true greatness just great physical ability. Shane Ray was a much better option when they drafted him. Ray knows how to play, Dupree knows how to run. Some athletes can learn how to play great, others athletes cannot. A golden rule in drafting is to select the potential player before the freakish athlete.

  • Jaybird

    I think for the most part Dupree does hustle , except for that game against the Jags. I thought Dupree was horrible in that game, I saw him standing flat foot a few times before getting blasted by an O linemen. He couldn’t set the edge at all that game.

  • John Pennington

    He still over run plays and still get out of position on plays to his side to make the tackle.Poor on angles but like his hussle.He has to watch the high hits to the head.

  • Ross McCorkle

    A huge disappointment if you are disillusioned and thought the 22nd overall pick would immediately be the next von Miller. I don’t get it.

  • Ross McCorkle

    And we can conclude this after probably 20 games of healthy bud? It’s almost as if people forgot he never had a proper olb coach until the NFL. Raw was a term that was used several times when we drafted him. He has plenty of time. If this helps us get him a bit cheaper on the 1st contract then that is a happy coincidence.

  • Nathanael Dory

    True bit at least he is trying to get to the QB using different moves

  • Nathanael Dory

    I really hope tho. Seriously what I want for our young OLB is to excel. But I research every Steelers games and i watch him specifically. The most thing that’s alarming is he doesn’t position himself to succeed as a pass rusher. He doesn’t set up his moves nor use different ways the rush the QB. On his 11.5 most of them are just wack, not by betting the OL

  • capehouse

    Natural pass rushers have an innate ability, or rather qualities, that make them great pass rushers. It’s pretty well documented in college and the pros that Bud is lacking some of those. That’s my opinion anyways from what I’ve read and seen myself.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Hard to consistently get after the QB when you aren’t consistently rushing the QB.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Yep. He doesn’t win 1v1, something has to get him past the blocker, either a screwup on the blocking side or scheme on our side.

    He makes up for that a bit by being really fast and hitting hard, and thus a scary man unblocked. If he was really good vs run and in coverage he’d be fine.

  • thomas hmmmm

    His running is fluid lol. No arc in the middle. How can he fail there?

  • thomas hmmmm

    I don’t think he has to succeed outside, as long as he succeeds somewhere. I am wondering if Chick might be a better OLB, even if Chick isn’t as athletic as Dupree. Might not be such a bad lineup of Watt, Shaz, Dupree, Chick. With that line up I think you could run more 3-4 because both Shaz and Dupree have the speed to cover TE’s. Although I have been happy with Williams in the middle.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Yeah, Williams has been way better than I expected!

  • Nathanael Dory

    When I say fluid. Its more about change of direction, ‘stop’ and ‘go’.