Even after the historic departure of two former first-round draft pick linebackers, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a wealth of talent at the position.
In fact, argues the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "this could be the team’s best group of outside linebackers in quite some time."
The Post-Gazette reports that one man stands out as a player ready to explode in 2017, among a talented list of OLB's that currently includes James Harrison, Ryan Shazier, T.J. Watt and Anthony Chickillo:
Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh's first-round draft choice out of Kentucky in 2015.
“Bud’s in a good situation where he’s in his third year,” linebackers coach Joey Porter said. “We definitely expect big things.”
Said Dupree, “It’s going to be a great year, definitely,” adding that his goals are to get “as many tackles and sacks as I can.”
"He has had his growing pains, literally sometimes. He had two sacks in his first two games as a rookie but did not start until the 11th game and finished with only two more sacks," wrote the Post. "Last season, when he missed the first nine games because of a decision to forego hernia surgery in the spring in hopes it would heal on its own."
It didn’t. He was placed on injured reserve, had the surgery the first week of September and returned at mid-season.
"Dupree came on strongly from that point, started four of the seven games in which he played and registered 4.5 sacks. But what might have he accomplished had the surgery taken place in the spring, when the injury was first diagnosed?"
“He had the injury last year that was kind of our fault that he didn’t get to play, but when he came back he played good for us,” linebackers coach Joey Porter said. “I just need to know what that looks for 16 games. He gave us a good tease at the end and made some splash plays for us but I would love to have that from Week 1 through the playoffs.”
But the best Bud, says end Cam Heyward, "is a healthy Bud."
“It helps out tremendously,” Heyward said of an effective pass rush coming from different sides. “Then you can’t just single out one or two guys. It puts us in a good situation in the back end; when you get that pass rush it makes our coverage a lot better.”
“He has stuff on tape and in playoff games so that we know he can do it,” Porter said. “The thing is getting him to the stadium healthy week to week and have another guy on the other side of him pushing him just as hard as he is. And with some good guys in the rotation, I think we can really be effective and help the defense and bring those sacks we’ve been missing.”