Steelers

Lolley’s 10 Thoughts: Dupree shows a spark ☕

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Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree (48) closes on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) for a sack Saturday night -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Bud Dupree.

They're two words, one name, strung together that elicit all kinds of emotions from Steelers fans -- many of them negative.

But we were given a glimpse of what the Steelers saw when they used a first-round pick, the 22nd overall, in the 2015 draft on the big outside linebacker in Saturday night's 17-7 preseason win over the Chiefs at Heinz Field.

Playing in the first half opposite T.J. Watt, a Pro Bowl player at the same position in just his second season a year ago, Dupree had three tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass defended against the Chiefs.

They were the kind of plays that have been too few and too far between for Dupree in his first four seasons, when he's recorded 20 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in 54 career games. That's not Jarvis Jones-like bust territory as some would lead you to believe, but it's also not up to snuff for a player the Steelers are paying $9.2 million this season after picking up his fifth-year option.

Working against left tackle and former No. 1-overall pick Eric Fisher on his first sack, Dupree moved in tandem with Cam Heyward on a stunt that confused the Chiefs' first-team offensive line for a sack of Patrick Mahomes on third down to get the Steelers off the field. Then, on his second sack, he blew around former Browns' No. 1 pick Cameron Erving, shed him with good hand usage and took out backup quarterback Chad Henne.

"I think Bud has grown a lot. I look forward to seeing it in the regular season," Heyward told me. "He was very physical in his rush. I thought he had a plan throughout the entire game, whether it was a speed rush that turned into an inside stunt. If you can keep an offensive linemen off guard and he’s not just expecting a speed rush, he can be very good."

Perhaps more importantly, we saw a glimpse of Dupree showing some growth in terms of his instincts:

On this play, he and Watt work in tandem to shut down a third-down play on the first snap of the second quarter. Watt comes in with immediate pressure as the Chiefs are attempting to set up a screen. Dupree recognizes what the Chiefs are trying to do and sheds the tackle, getting his hands up into the passing lane to break up the pass.

"I think we want to be special players," Watt said. "I think as outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense, we’re expected to set the tone for splash plays. We can affect the game on every play, whether it’s the run or a pass play. It’s getting our hands up or punching balls out on ball carriers, getting sacks, pressures. You can see all of the hard work we’ve been putting in. It paid off tonight. We were around the quarterback a lot. We smelled blood in the water and we were getting after him good. It’s just the beginning."

The Steelers hope so. If Dupree can finally realize his immense talent, it would be a big boon for this defense. There aren't many people on the planet who are 6 foot 4 and 270 pounds and run a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, as Dupree did at the NFL Scouting Combine back in 2015.

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