The Oxford Dictionary describes “hot seat” as the following: the position of a person who carries full responsibility for something, including facing criticism or being answerable for decisions or actions. In this ongoing series our contributors will select a current member of the Steelers organization and ask the simple question: are they on the hot seat in 2020?
When Alvin “Bud” Dupree was selected 22nd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, there were two thoughts about the pick: value and reach.
As is typical with draft critics, some felt justified in saying that Dupree should’ve fallen further. Those naysayers continued on through last season, when Dupree finally proved the second half of those critiques correct in thinking he was a talented athlete who slipped in the draft.
The Steelers certainly felt that way, having a pre-draft dinner several days prior to that year’s draft – the only reason it was unusual is that it happened so close to the date. In other words, the organization may not have felt he was going to be available at pick 22.
Alas, Dupree was selected and came with some unnecessary guilt by association: 2013 draft pick and fellow outside linebacker Jarvis Jones had not lived up to expectations.
That rub followed Dupree, who did not start outright as a rookie. He still finished with four sacks that season in a linebacker rotation which was soon going to be done away with – but he had to sit out most of his second season after being placed on IR at the beginning and gently easing into the final five games of the season as a full-time starter, amassing 4.5 sacks.
Dupree would then become the “guy” at left outside linebacker with current teammate and then rookie T.J. Watt in 2017. Dupree finished the year with six sacks, leading some of the “bust birds” to crow at what they viewed as a lack of production.
With the backend of the Steelers defense still in disarray, it was easy to see that Dupree was often asked to drop into coverage rather than come off of the edge after quarterbacks. 2018 would see him nearly match his 2017 totals; his detractors still squawking that he’s not worth a fifth-year option on his rookie deal worth around $11 million.
But it would be Bud’s second season in flipping sides with T.J. Watt that proved his value. In a contract season Dupree would double up on his previous sack total, finishing with 11.5 in 2019. But those looking at only those statistics miss out on his four forced fumbles, all strip-sacks, and all game-changing plays which led the Steelers to victory.
Dupree would also set career highs in combined, solo, and assisted tackles, as well as 16 tackles for loss and 17 QB hits.
His 3 batted passes also tied his previous high from 2018.
Is Dupree on the hot seat?
The only reason I would remotely put Dupree on the hot seat is due to his contract.
Entering 2020 Bud Dupree is on a one-year franchise tag tender, which he signed this offseason in the ballpark of $16 million. Since the Steelers were unable to extend Dupree in either of the previous two offseasons, which could be the result of either party unwilling to come to terms, it could stand to reason that this year is a make-or-break for the edge rusher.
The Steelers may be willing to do a longer deal, but they may also want to take a wait and see approach.
That could prove costly to either Dupree or the team – if Dupree has another knockout season, he’s going to command top dollar as a premiere edge rusher. If he regresses back to having 4-5 sacks a season without the same “splash” in his play, a lower offer could come his way… and he could still walk.
Dupree has, however, openly discussed being a Steeler long-term. With the way the coronavirus has altered the sports landscape, it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on what could be going on with any sort of future deal between the two.
It’s that speculation which usually fuels the fire for that hot seat to get warmer – and why I place Dupree on the “hot seat” for the Steelers in 2020.