UNITY TWP, Pa. — Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2019.
But he’s not that interested in signing a long-term extension, he told reporters before the team’s practice on Sunday.
Instead, he’s betting on himself.
“I’m straight. I’d rather just be like this right now,” Dupree said Sunday when asked if he preferred to sign an extension before the season. “For one year, I’m going to go out and do my thing. I’m going to prove.”
For an edge rusher, the big way to go out and prove that he has value would be for Dupree to add sacks. He had four as a rookie, four and a half in 2016, six in 2017 and five and a half after making the move to right outside linebacker in 2018.
But of course, sacks are as much about individual effort as they are about the team’s concept on any given play. The outside linebackers in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme have often been primarily pass-rushers, but the emergence of T.J. Watt as a pass-rusher with his 13 sacks a year ago may lessen Dupree’s opportunities. He understands that coverage is going to have to be a part of his game.
“I’m going to help the team and not be selfish,” he said. “Even though it is a contract year, I can’t be selfish. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing stuff that’s beneficial towards the unit, as well, and keep my hair on fire.”
The biggest difference in opportunities might depend on which linebackers are chose to play in the Steelers’ sub packages. With fewer backers on the field, those that stay will have an outsized role in the team’s 2019 fate.
With that in mind, Dupree slimmed himself down entering training camp in a quest to stay on the field more often and to be able to play every down that he can in 2019.
“That’s for being able to stay on the field and being able to stay full speed while I’m on the field,” Dupree said. “It’s just about stamina, that’s the main thing.”
The Steelers had some incentive to try to lock up Dupree on a longer-term contract, because if he is able to increase that sack total, he will command a premium on the open market, as Parker Hurley wrote earlier this month.
With Dupree taking that option off the table, the Steelers could look for other options for contract extensions, like cornerback Joe Haden, who said on Thursday that he is optimistic he and the team will be able to work-out a contract before the season begins.