Steelers' Dupree looks to break out in 5th season
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PITTSBURGH (AP) Bud Dupree seemingly has the total package. A chiseled 6-foot-4 and 269-pounds, long and athletic with raw speed and explosiveness rarely amassed for an NFL edge rusher.
Dupree's skillset has tantalized the Pittsburgh Steelers for years, even if his pass-rushing production has not.
But as he sits on 20 sacks over four NFL seasons, could it be that Dupree will have his long-awaited breakout on his way out of Pittsburgh?
Playing on a fifth-year option worth $9.23 million and scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next spring, Dupree is showing signs he's ready to cash in - figuratively and literally - on that seemingly limitless potential to be next in line among a litany of productive Steelers outside linebackers.
"I just see him as more of a complete rusher," said Steelers defensive captain Cameron Hewyard, who lines up next to Dupree at right defensive end.
"And hopefully that shows in the regular season as well. We all know Bud is speed demon, but he has that physicality - now, he's just showing it more."
Dupree showed off some of his power pass-rush moves during the Steelers' most preseason game, having two sacks of the Kansas City Chiefs' Chad Henne over a three-possession span in the first half of a 17-7 Steelers win last Saturday.
Two near-misses of sacks by position mate T.J. Watt over that same 17-snap span made for such a tease of what the Steelers' pass rush from the edge could look like that coach Mike Tomlin - somewhat uncharacteristically - gushed to the Steelers' official media outlet during halftime of that game that "(Dupree) and T.J. have the makings of an awesome tandem."
Dupree agrees, albeit in more muted tones. He said that he and Watt "definitely" discuss becoming the next, say, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, or Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene, "all the time."
"We have fun with it," Dupree said this week after the first Steelers practice back in Pittsburgh after the breaking of camp at Saint Vincent College.
"But we try to make sure we are practicing and making sure we're watching film and combine all the (skills) that we have."
For Watt, that hasn't been an issue, at least insofar as sacks are concerned. He has exactly as many career sacks as Dupree, in only half of the NFL seasons.
Though Dupree reminds that his job description goes well beyond pressuring opposing quarterbacks - dropping in pass coverage, for example - that remains the primary tenet of his job as well as the one he's seemingly most equipped for given his skillset.
Dupree laid out his strategy for tapping those god-given abilities for more sacks.
"Making sure you take (knowledge of the game) another step," he said. "That above-the-neck game. And then just going out and executing.
"I've always been a fast guy my whole life, so people know I've got speed, people know I've got power," Dupree said moments earlier. "It's just the setups - you've got to have setups. Every rush is not going to be a sack. So it's got to be a continuous setup, a first move sets up a second move, the second move set up the third move, and those first 10 rushes might set up the 11th rush for a sack. But you've got to make sure it's all in your gameplan and all in your head."
Dupree too often early in his career has relied solely on his speed and quickness to rush to the outside.
Although he many times has beaten tackles this way, it's also commonly left him too wide of (or behind) the quarterback.
Last Saturday's preseason game showed a new trick up the sleeve of Dupree and the Steelers. Dupree cut inside while Heyward handled the edge on Dupree's sacks, the stunts a rarely-before seen part of Dupree's pass-rush repertoire.
"I want to make sure he's able to show that more," Heyward said. "If he wants to come inside, all we've got to do is communicate. We're just working on that communication a lot more; this is our second year together on the same side, so we're looking for even better results."
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Updated August 20, 2019