Bud Dupree Watch intensified on March 30 as news that the linebacker was meeting with his former team was announced. Every day for the last six, diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been checking for official word, a possibility ever since March 24 when ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Steelers were bringing him in.
Visits often end with a contract being hammered out, but it didn’t happen this time.
It all started when Dupree posted a video of him in Pittsburgh to his Instagram account. Immediately Steelers Nation went bananas. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac confirmed that Dupree was, in fact, in town to meet with the Steelers. He was also the first to report that a deal didn’t get done.
It’s disappointing news, sure, but the Bud Dupree Watch goes on — it’s possible this was just the first step toward a potential reunion.
“Bud Dupree had physical and met with Steelers, but no contract details were discussed — yet. Dupree would be a backup to 90 and 56, if a deal is reached,” Dulac tweeted.
Health of Bud Dupree in Question for the Steelers
As a formality, an NFL player must pass a physical before a team can finalize and announce a signing. This step is always important, but never as important as it is for guys like Bud Dupree with an injury history.
At the end of his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dupree suffered a late-season ACL tear. Season-enders are always devastating, but even more so for a player in the last year of his contract. Still, the Tennessee Titans chose to roll the dice based on his presumed production when healthy—except Tennessee rarely saw that side of the pass-rusher.
Dupree missed six games in 2021 and, in seven of the 11 games he suited up, played less than 60 percent. He missed four more games with two separate hip injuries in 2022. He exited early in others and didn’t play in the final two games of the regular season.
When healthy, the 30-year-old can still be somewhat effective. In 22 games with the Titans, he logged 7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 35 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 14 QB hits. While those aren’t elite-level numbers, a similar production is about all the Steelers would really need.
T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are entrenched as starters. There’s no question about that. In 2022, Highsmith played 88 percent of snaps while just 76 and 43 in years prior, according to Pro Football Reference. With Watt having missed eight games, his increased workload was inevitable. But Watt and Highsmith need a solid player who can rotate in or backfill under injury circumstances.
Show Bud Dupree the Money?
Bud Dupree, 30, is ranked as the sixth-best edge rusher on the market, according to NFLTR. It remains to be seen what kind of money the sixth-best 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.
“What kind of contract, in terms of length and dollars, is Dupree willing to accept, and what kind of contract are the Steelers willing to offer, especially with Highsmith going into the final year of his rookie deal and possibly looking for an extension at some point over the summer,” Bob Labriola of Steelers.com wrote. “There are a lot of ways where a reunion between the Steelers and Dupree sounds good, but that doesn’t mean it will be simple to turn that into a reality.”