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Steelers, Bud Dupree Fail to Reach Long-Term Deal

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Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree will play the 2020 season under the franchise tag, after he and the organization were unable to reach a long-term contract by Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Dupree will now play the upcoming season under a one-year, $15.8 million deal, as the Steelers look to see if he can duplicate his breakout performance from 2019.

A first-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2015, Dupree finally found his footing last year, recording 16 tackles-for-loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Still, last season was just one year, and Pittsburgh had seen a lot of underwhelming play from Dupree over his Pittsburgh tenure. By signing Dupree to the franchise tender, the Steelers can find out if this version of him is here to stay, or if 2019 was just a flash in the pan.

If the 27-year-old has another strong season off the edge, the Steelers can always attempt to sign him to a long-term deal again next offseason when he hits free agency. Keeping Dupree in Pittsburgh appears to be the ultimate goal of the organization. General manager Kevin Colbert said as much at the NFL Combine back in February before the team decided to tag Dupree.

“Any time we do, it’s always with the intention that if we do tag a player, we’d like to get him signed to a long-term deal,” Colbert said. “We love having that option available to us and we want Bud Dupree to finish his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler.”

Although he did sign the tag in April, there is still uncertainty with regards to exactly how much Dupree will be paid. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported last Friday that Dupree filed a grievance with the NFLPA over his positional designation with regards to the tender. If he is classified as a defensive end, he will make over $2 million more this season than he would being listed as an outside linebacker.

Regardless of the outcome of the grievance, Dupree has already agreed play football in Pittsburgh in 2020.

Now, they only question remaining is if he will continue playing for the Steelers beyond this season.

Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20

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It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20

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While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.

Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.

Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start

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To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.

He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.

The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.

“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”

Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.

“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”

All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.

His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.

Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.

Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.

“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”

If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.

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