Statistics alone fail to paint a complete picture of Steelers OLB Bud Dupree’s performance this season.
Growing up as a child of the 70’s, I used to love to listen to the legendary Paul Harvey on the radio with my father and grandfather. Mr. Harvey was a radio broadcaster that focused on the news and commentary. He was renowned for his ‘Now You Know The Rest Of The Story’ segments. They were always must hear segments around our household. The man was a great storyteller and a gift to the Nation. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I would highly recommend you take the time to do a little research. I promise it will be well worth your time.
As I was doing my own research for this article, I was surprised to learn how little Dupree’s statistics actually reflect his impact on the Steelers defense thus far this season. At first glance, his statistics seem rather pedestrian. Dupree has been credited with 23 tackles, 7 QB sacks, and 2 forced fumbles on the season. He has registered at least a half a sack in six of the Steelers nine games this season. He has continued to set a mean edge against the running game, and has used his freakish size/speed combination to wreak havoc on the opposition in stretches this season.
Having said all that, why does it feel like he has so much more to give? Because his performance has been like riding a roller coaster at times, either feast or famine you could say. He looked like the best defender on the field in the season opener against the New York Giants, flying all around the field thanks to his non-stop motor. Then you have the other end of the spectrum, when Dupree failed to register a single defensive statistic against the Tennessee Titans. Dupree is simply too talented a player for that to happen.
Some maybe tempted to claim that matchups help explain the variations in production, but the ebbs and flows have been rather drastic, often in the same game. Lately he has flashed with an occasion splash play, only to disappear again for long stretches. Against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, the conditions appeared favorable for a huge performance for the Steelers imposing pass rush. Dupree was credited with a single tackle on the day, or one more than he had in the aforementioned Titans contest. That’s unacceptable by all accounts.
So what is going on with Dupree’s performance this season? How do we explain the inconsistency in his impact and production? After all, this is a contract season for the young man, all but assuring maximum effort in any players quest for financial security. He is presently a vital cog on arguably the best defense in the NFL at the moment, and is impossible to double team due to the incredible talent surrounding him on said defense.
That brings me to the central point of this article. Dupree’s value will never be higher than it is right now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is a valuable chess piece on the board for a potentially championship defense, surrounded by talented teammates on both sides of the ball. He is valued and respected by the franchise, and the rabid fanbase. Life in the NFL will never be better than it is right now for the young man. The grass is seldom greener on the other side.
When a player chases the money, he may cash out with a max contract with some guaranteed money. However, most teams that can afford to pay a max contract aren’t inundated with talent, therefore he will be expected to be the Man week in and week out because he is being paid to be the Man. Many talented players can’t handle the pressure and fail to live up to expectations. Their once promising careers suffer the consequences and they pocket the guaranteed money, but little else. They may hang on for a few years, playing on veteran minimum contracts, but their legacy and career earning potential are forever impacted.
Dupree’s current situation reminds me of Jadeveon Clowney a few seasons prior. Actually that is the player that most reminds me of Dupree. Capable of making some mind blowing plays due to their out of this world athleticism, but who’s production can be mind numbingly sporadic. Another rather odd similarity; they both have played their best football with a DPOY (potentially) Watt brother playing on the other side of the defense with them.
Bud Dupree has had a uneven 2020 season thus far, but that’s ok because he has some talented teammates capable of picking up the slack. That’s what teammates do, support each other as they work in unison toward a common goal. To be Super Bowl champions and bring a seventh Lombardi Trophy home to the Steel City.
Hopefully Dupree will enjoy this incredible journey he and his teammates are on, because the final destination and the future are anything but certain.