The Steelers have been looking to get back to their defensive identity for a few years now, with Dick LeBeau leaving and his biggest stars retiring soon after. So, in the last few years the Steelers have gone after defensive players early in the draft, Stephon Tuitt, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Cameron Heyward were all drafted in the 1st or 2nd round in one of the last 5 drafts. Last year nothing changed as they picked outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round. Now, after an average first year in the Steelers system, all eyes will be on him to make the leap to becoming one of the Steelers next defensive linchpins.
Much like Coates on the offensive side of the ball, Dupree was selected with the label of being a slightly developmental prospect. At college he showed raw athleticism and a knack for getting to the passer he just needed to work on his fundamentals and consistency. Towards the end of the year he started receiving more playing time and despite not having the production you’d hope, he was improving.
Though this must be taken with a pinch of salt, as should most offseason proclamations from players, Dupree has admitted that he hit a rookie wall down the stretch last year, and he has used the experience to work harder this offseason and in different ways to prepare himself for a full season. He did, after all, have 4 sacks in his first 8 games.
Furthermore, per his linebacker coach Joey Porter, Dupree is now “helping the young guys and the new guys to the defense.” That is a good sign, especially if he is doing it correctly. If he understands the defense more and he I more physically prepared for the 16 game schedule, there is nothing to say that Dupree can’t breakout and hit at least the 10 sack mark.