Potential Roadblocks Revealed in Steelers-Bud Dupree Reunion

Fantasy Football Defense Rankings Week 12

Getty T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree of the celebrate on the field.

Bud Dupree. Bud Dupree. And more Bud Dupree. He’s been linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers time and time again this offseason and the hype increased following his foregone release from the Tennessee Titans.

With all this speculation floating around, former Steelers guard Ramon Foster decided to go straight to the source to get the skinny, texting Dupree live on the air of the March 22 episode of DK Pittsburgh Sports’ The Ramon Foster Show.

“I’m going to tell him he’s wanted and loved in the city of legends,” Foster shared.

Twenty minutes later, a viewer asked if he’d heard back from Dupree. “You know what, I did. And he sent me the smile-smirk [with a quiet emoji]… I don’t know if that means it’s brewing for him or what. Bud never failed me. I’m not saying the rumors are or are not true, but he’s gonna let me know soon.”

That soon could come sooner than later. According to sources of ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers are bringing Dupree in for a visit (though it’s unclear when). It raises eyebrows because they already know the pass rusher pretty well and visa versa, but visits sometimes turn into signings, so it could just be a formality.

Many topics will be discussed during Dupree’s visit. Given some of the hurdles they’ll need to clear, it’ll be interesting to see if the parties can reach an agreement.

Hurdles with Signing Former Steelers OLB Bud Dupree

Like many teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers have more holes than draft picks. They aren’t aggressively targeting edge rushers because they have two elite starters. They haven’t met with many incoming rookies this offseason, which could indicate it’s not a priority to have a young guy playing a rotational role.

They could still address the need via free agency (with Bud Dupree or another outside guy) or go into the 2023 season with positional depth as a weakness, as they have in the past.

Dupree, 30, is ranked as the sixth-best edge rusher on the market, according to NFLTR. His production has declined since he left the Steelers, mainly due to an inability to stay healthy. Knee, abdominal and hip injuries caused him to miss a dozen games over his two-year Titans career, six each season. In that span, he logged 35 total tackles, 7.0 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, a pass defensed, two forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

It remains to be seen what kind of money Dupree would command. His inability to stay healthy, coupled with the corresponding decline in production, indicates a soft market for the linebacker. That could work in Pittsburgh’s favor.

“It’s not like [the Steelers] just have money to blow, but I don’t consider a third outside linebacker to be some kind of like exorbitant luxury either,” Steelers Now‘s Alan Saunders said on the March 9 episode of the Locked on Steelers podcast.

A matter more important than money might be whether he’s willing to take a bit of a backseat to the action — something that didn’t sit well with Melvin Ingram. But it could be just what the doctor ordered for Dupree.

“The bigger thing will be whether he’ll want an opportunity where he knows he’s not going to start or even really have the ability to win a starting job,” said Saunders. “He knows he’s not going to beat those guys out, so I think that would be the bigger stumbling block than money. I mean he’s getting paid his signing bonus from Tennessee still, so he’s kind of already taken care of in some ways.”

We witnessed after Watt’s injury how critical depth on the edge is for the Steelers, Watt and Alex Highsmith. At this point in his career, Dupree may be looking to play for as long as he can — being a depth swing guy would help allow him to do that. If he’s willing to take less money and accept that role, there should be no hesitation to sign on the dotted line.
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