They say that two’s company, three’s a crowd. But that’s not the case with the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ edge-rushing unit, especially as it pertains to bringing back a familiar face.
In one of the worst-kept secrets of the Steelers’ offseason, it’s rumored that the team intends to reunite linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith with their former teammate Bud Dupree. He went to the Tennessee Titans as a free agent in 2021 but hasn’t been the same since he left Pittsburgh after a devastating ACL injury.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport, the Titans are expected to release Dupree, 30, in the coming months. And it sounds as if the Steelers are ready to pounce.
Highsmith shared his thoughts on a potential reunion on the March 8 House of Yinzer podcast.
“If that were to happen, it would be a three-headed monster for sure,” Highsmith said of T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and himself playing together again. “When he was here, my locker was actually right next to his, so that was pretty cool. Him and T.J., both of them were just very helpful in bringing me up my rookie year and just helping me to get better.”
During one of the most trying times of his career, Dupree kept pushing his rookie teammate. “Even when he went down my rookie year with his injury, he was still encouraging me and telling me things in meetings and stuff like that,” said Highsmith. “He was helping me be my best self. I was just thankful to play with him when I did. But, you know, if he does [return to Steelers], that would be a three-headed monster.”
Benefits of the Steelers Bringing Back Bud Dupree
Getting the band back together again would pay dividends for not only the Pittsburgh Steelers defense as a whole, but for the pass-rush duo of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Having a capable and experienced edge like Bud Dupree to help keep them fresh is paramount to their production and longevity. We saw just how beneficial a solid rotation was when Watt earned Defensive Player of the Year status during the season that Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram was (briefly) part of that unit.
Rarely does a starting-caliber player want to take a backseat to the action, but it could be just what the doctor ordered for Dupree. His production has declined since he left the Steelers, largely 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 in 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.
A rotational role is exactly what Dupree needs in this phase of his career. If he can swallow his pride and accept fewer snaps (something Melvin Ingram was incapable of), it could allow him to play two to three more seasons.
It’s tough to predict what an injury-marred Bud Dupree, now three years removed from his most productive season, would command on the free-agent market. One thing is certain, he isn’t worth the $20.2 million cap hit the Titans would suffer if he stuck around.