Now a over two weeks removed from the 2020 NFL season, the speculation about all 32 teams going into 2021 has taken center stage. One of the biggest stories surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as of right now is the release of JJ Watt, brother of Steelers’ linebacker TJ Watt and fullback Derek Watt, from the Houston Texans. Many believe Watt will want to come to Pittsburgh and play with his brothers. This would be awesome, and I am all for it. This would make the defense that led the league in sacks for the fourth straight season, potentially even better.
However, it leaves the question; what about Bud Dupree?
Dupree is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and he has been critical in Pittsburgh’s vaunted pass rush over these last few seasons, the last two particularly. Dupree has been responsible for 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and potentially more considering he only played in 11 games in 2020 after suffering an ACL tear Week 12. He played this season on the franchise tag.
We all know it’s tough to bring back a player of Dupree’s caliber and at his position, due to it’s average salary being one of the highest in the league. However, he has shown his loyalty to the team. He has expressed the fact he wants to stay with them, and played without a hiccup on the franchise tag, which many players in the NFL refuse to do now, holding out to secure long-term contracts. He has shown his want and determination to be a Steeler, and has produced and help make this defense a top notch unit.
Now, like I said, I’m all for Watt signing with the team, but if it means sacrificing Dupree, is it the right move? Dupree has been the far more productive of the two over the last two seasons. His 19.5 sacks dwarf Watt’s 9, but we’re talking about a former 3 time Defensive Player of The Year here. Watt has also been on the less talented of the two defenses. That bids the question though, is the defense as good without Dupree?
The answer is no. Everything about the defense seemed to take a hit from losing Dupree. The pass rush only produced 10 sacks to end the season after Dupree went down, as well as allowing 124 rushing yards per game. Pittsburgh sported a 1-4 record in those games. This is not to knock rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith either, who performed admirably and got noticeably better each week. It is just tough to replace a guy like Dupree, who has become a stalwart in both run and pass defense, and one of two in a special combo of pass rushers between him and TJ Watt.
Adding JJ Watt would definitely help this defense, but if it is at the expense of Dupree, is it the right move? I’m not so sure. In a perfect world, I would like to see Pittsburgh sign both and watch what would be one of the funnest defenses in Steelers’ history (which is saying something). That is not the case unfortunately, due to salary cap, which Pittsburgh is already struggling with. I’m not saying you have to choose one or the other, or you’re wrong for doing so, but it’s hard to turn your back completely on a guy who has came out and played hard year in and year out for the organization. Dupree has earned his stripes, and if the team figures out the cap space and were to bring him back, it wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be to anyone’s surprise.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Do you want Dupree back? Do you want JJ Watt? Both? Neither of them? Sound off in the comment section on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!