The dust has finally settled in the weeks following Bud Dupree‘s departure from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in that time we’ve been able to process what that means for the team – and for us as fans.
Dupree (who was selected by the Steelers with pick 22 in the 2015 NFL Draft) recently penned a thank you letter on The Player’s Tribune, and in keeping with that motif, I wanted to write one back to him. From the proud members of Steeler Nation, this one’s for you Bud.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty hard on you your first couple years. It felt like the era of the “Killer B’s” was being wasted away by a mediocre defense, and I put a lot of that on you.
When you grow up a fan of the black and gold, with historic defensive juggernauts crowned the “Steel Curtain” and “Blitzburgh”, you have certain expectations. And mine, in all honesty, may have been a bit too high. Along with the departure of guys like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark was the departure of our defense’s identity. It took years to rediscover and reclaim. And unfortunately for you, a first round pick with a world of potential, you were lumped in there with what I considered to be an underwhelming, underachieving, black hole defense. Your numbers through your first few years didn’t reflect anything like what I anticipated them being, recording 14.5 sacks from 2015-2017, and I complained.
But what I didn’t realize (or just didn’t WANT to realize) was that this team was more than just a stud linebacker away from having a defense that would, as the professionals say, win championships. And no one could thrive on a defense like that, no matter how talented.
I’m sure you heard the criticism. I’m sure you heard the noise. Social media makes it impossible to tune it out. But you kept showing up. You kept working your ass off. You kept doing what it took to develop your game and become an impact player. You didn’t let anything anyone was saying or thinking influence your ethic; you just kept being you.
Eventually, finally, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin built a defense, adding key pieces like TJ Watt and Devin Bush and Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The more they added, the more guys like Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward and you were able to really get to work.
And get to work you did.
Remember those 14.5 sacks over three seasons I mentioned? In 2019 alone you racked up 11.5. As the defense started to come to life, so did you.
And boy, was it ever a treat to watch you play. Game in, game out, my eyes were fixed on you. Whenever the defense was on the field, I was watching Bud Dupree.
Here’s one of my favorites:
You were just electric, man. Every game, every down, every moment. It didn’t matter what happened leading up to big moments; when the team needed you, you came through. You played your heart out. And every single person tuning in could see that. You are the very definition of a Steeler, from the plays you made on the field to the way you led the locker room. And your presence is going to be missed everywhere.
I’m going to miss watching you light guys up. I’m going to miss watching you rush around the edge to put pressure on the QB and force bad passes. I’m going to miss watching you and TJ Watt rake after tackling a guy for a loss. I’m going to miss it all.
But I won’t miss rooting for you.
Because I won’t stop rooting for you.
Regardless of the logo on the helmet or the colors on your jersey, I will be cheering you on and hoping that you continue to re-define your role as linebacker in this league. I hope that as you transition to life as a Tennessee Titan that you keep leading the locker room, keep paving the way, keep finding success – as long as you aren’t playing the Steelers.
I’m sorry for the early years – and not that you need it, but I’m damn proud of the way you kept your head down and put in the work anyway. You made watching games a thousand times more fun, and I’ll miss seeing you on the field in the black and gold. You were a tough loss to swallow. And you leave behind some pretty big shoes to fill. But as you heard throughout your years here, next man up.
Good luck in Tennessee.
See you soon.