Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton spent four-plus seasons together as Pittsburgh Steelers teammates. On Saturday January 22, the two defenders will be on opposite sidelines when Hilton’s AFC North champion Bengals visit Nashville to take on Dupree and the No. 1 seeded Titans for the right to go to the AFC Championship game.
According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, reporter for NFL Network, the two have talked this week, and Dupree has suggested that they do a postgame jersey swap.
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Hilton’s Impact in Cincinnati vs. Dupree’s Impact in Tennessee
Of the two ex-Steelers, Mike “mighty mouth” Hilton—as Dupree has referred to him—had the more impactful first season with his new team. Both left Pittsburgh as unrestricted free agents following the 2020 season, with Hilton agreeing to a four-year, $24 million contract with the Bengals on March 16, 2021, and Dupree inking a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Titans—also at the very beginning of the free agency period.
Hilton immediately stepped into a leadership role with the Bengals, and didn’t disappoint on the field, either, appearing in 17 games and recording 66 tackles, including eight tackles for loss. He also trash-talked his way to five passes defensed, a forced fumble and two interceptions, one of those a pick-six of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Dupree’s impact on his new club was much more muted, as he struggled to come back from the torn ACL he suffered against the Baltimore Ravens on December 2, 2020. In fact, he started the 2021 season on Tennessee’s Physically Unable to Perform list and later spent three weeks on injured reserve with an abdominal injury. He was activated in time to face his old team in Pittsburgh, and managed to record a sack of Roethlisberger en route to his team’s 19-13 loss.
Yet Dupree appeared in just 11 of Tennessee’s 17 regular-season games and made just six starts. Along the way he contributed 17 tackles, with three sacks, eight quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
Most notably, he appeared in just 55 percent of Tennessee’s defensive snaps and six percent of its special teams snaps, as per Pro Football Reference. The Steelers were initially projected to receive a third-round pick as compensation for losing Dupree in free agency, but thanks to the relatively modest playing time he received it’s possible the Steelers might be awarded a fourth-round comp pick instead.
In fact, the Titans received better production from the other former Steelers linebacker the Titans signed in free agency last year, that being reserve OLB Ola Adeniyi, who had 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season while appearing in 16 games.
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Other Ex-Steelers Could See Action on Saturday
Of the two teams, the Titans have the larger ex-Steelers contingent, as Tennessee has former Steelers camp phenom Tuzar Skipper and ex-Steelers offensive tackle Derwin Gray on its practice squad. The Titans claimed Gray off waivers in August 2021. He was a seventh-round pick of the Steelers in the 2019 NFL Draft.
For his part, Skipper is doing scout team duty this week, imitating Bengals defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson.
The Bengals also employ a former Steelers offensive lineman, that being Fred Johnson, who is Cincinnati’s backup right tackle. The Steelers waived Johnson in October 2019 and he was claimed by the Bengals. Since then he has appeared in 23 games for Cincy, including eight starts.
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