Bud Dupree did not have his 2019 salary restructured and will make $9.2 million for the upcoming season. There was speculation that the Steelers, who had until the start of the league’s new year to get it done, would restructure Dupree’s fifth year option while giving them added cap space in the process. The Steelers ultimately decided to not go in that direction.
Dupree, who is entering his final season under contract, was congratulated by teammate Ramon Foster after officially receiving his entire 2019 salary.
Dupree has turned into a solid, yet unspectacular starter after being Pittsburgh’s first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. After starting the final seven games (including the postseason) of his rookie season, Dupree missed nine games in 2016 after spending the first half of the season on IR. Dupree bounced back to have a solid season in 2017, setting a career high with 6.0 sacks while also recording 12 tackles for loss. In 2018, Dupree, after switching sides with fellow outside linebacker and former first round pick T.J. Watt, collected 5.5 sacks while also recording the first interception and touchdown of his career. The Steelers picked up Dupree’s fifth year option last offseason.
Last month, during his meeting with local Pittsburgh media, Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert was asked if he is comfortable paying Dupree that much money heading into his final year under contract.
“We’ll watch this thing as we go into free agency, the draft,” Colbert said, via Jim Wexell of 247Sports. “His number is there. We know what it is.”
Colbert was asked, as a follow-up, if Dupree’s money is guaranteed once free agency begins
“Yes. Again, we’ll continue to monitor that. Look, Bud Dupree had his best year last year, and collectively he and T.J. are pretty good. I like the change that Coach Tomlin made, putting T.J. on the left, putting Bud on the right. Does Bud still have more? Absolutely. Bud’s a starter on a winning team. Is it a playofff team? No. Does he have more to give? Absolutely. From an effort standpoint? No, it’s not a lack of effort. Let’s turn that effort into more production. Can he? Will he? We’ll see.”
Colbert also assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Pittsburgh’s defense during the 2018 season while looking forward to how he and the Steelers will look to bolster the unit moving forward.
“Defensively, again there’s a little inconsistency,” he said. “We led the league or were second in sacks, but our turnover production was near the bottom. Usually when you’re getting pressure, you’re getting more turnovers. We think that’s reflective of the group that we have. That’s not to say we don’t have guys that are capable of making plays in the secondary, but we didn’t have that type of production.
“So, again, we’re looking to maintain the pressure aspect and improve the turnover part of it. Again, another young player who stepped up in his second year was T.J. Watt. He did a nice job. Continues to grow, but we need more young playmakers, especially on the back end. The young kids that we have need to continue to get better and make more plays, and we have to continue to search and look for more playmakers.”
Following a spring practice last offseason, Dupree, who celebrated his 26th birthday earlier this month, said that he knows there’s still another level of his game he has yet to get to.
“The ceiling that I have, I’m nowhere near reaching (yet),” Dupree told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “I just gotta go out, keep going hard and trusting the scheme.”
Dupree was asked what his ceiling potentially looks like.
“I don’t what it looks like,” he said. “I gotta keep getting better and better. I feel myself getting better and better each rep, each day, each training session.”
Despite his banner 2018 season, Watt, who led the Steelers with 13.0 sacks last season after switching positions with Dupree, recently told Fowler that he felt like he left “a lot of plays out there” this past season. Despite his stellar year, Watt was unable to help the Steelers’ defense get out of several jams during the team’s three-game losing streak that ultimately kept them out of the postseason. Pittsburgh’s defense gave up late scores in each of the team’s final four losses of the 2018 season.
“We’re nowhere near satisfied with where we can be as a defense,” Watt said. “We’ve gotten ourselves here. We have to handle our business first. It’s just frustrating, not being able to put together as many complete games as we know we’re capable of. We understand how competitive the NFL is, and we feel we have a really good team here and we definitely feel we should have won more games than we have. But at the same time we respect the NFL, respect the process, respect everything about this game to be the best we can possibly be.”
While his 2018 campaign was not a disappointing one, it’s clear that Dupree will have to further elevate his game if he wants to improve his chances at receiving a longterm commitment from the Steelers heading into the 2019 offseason.