Bud Dupree began his first NFL season with a bang, but like a lot of first-year NFL players, he hit the rookie wall.
He’s hoping his second NFL season is a lot more consistent.
Dupree became the first Pittsburgh rookie since LaMarr Woodley to record sacks in back-to-back games to begin his career last year. He finished his rookie season with four sacks, the third-most for a Steelers rookie in club history.
Those are impressive feats for a first-year player, but Dupree is looking to produce better numbers in his second NFL season. After racking up four sacks in his first eight games last season, Dupree went without a sack during his final eight regular-season games and the team’s two playoff contests.
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“It was just not being used to playing that many games,” said Dupree, a Wilkinson County product. “It took a toll on my body. Now I’m more prepared for that. I’ve been training longer, doing different things that I didn’t have the time to do coming from college last year. Just a lot of little minor things you need to do, just looking at guys like James Harrison, guys who really take care of their body, following their lead. Your body will feel much fresher and you’ll feel like you can do more.”
The strange part of the story for Dupree was he earned the starting left outside linebacker job late in December, starting ahead of veteran Arthur Moats for the final five games of the regular season. The Steelers used a rotation at both outside linebacker spots last season, splitting the repetitions equally.
But the Steelers didn’t invest a first-round draft choice in Dupree in 2015 to have him split time. The expectation is for him to play the majority of the reps at his position. When that happens will be up to him.
Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter believes Dupree, the No. 22 overall selection in the 2015 draft out of Kentucky, will take a big step in his second season because he learned the intricacies of the defense as a rookie.
“Just like all my young guys, I want to see them get a little better than what they were a year ago,” Porter said. “He has had time to look at the stuff he did last year, and he can judge himself where he is now. I catch him out there helping the young guys and the new guys to the defense. He said, “I never thought I would be able to help somebody.
“But that shows you how far along he has come with this defense. He feels comfortable enough to give the other guys some knowledge of the game. That’s a beautiful thing that shows his growth.”
Dupree said knowing the defense will help him immensely as he enters his second NFL season.
“It’s crazy how much more I know,” Dupree said. “It amazed me. I’m just ready to get back out there. It’s going to help me a lot. No more thinking, just going out and playing. That’s how you’re going to be successful.”
Dupree will return to Macon in late June and will go back and forth between his home there and Atlanta to train before returning to Pittsburgh for training camp in late July. The summer is the only time of the year he can spend extended time with his family and help in the community.
While he’s home, Dupree is going to raise money for two families that are in need. Dupree will hold two fundraisers during the summer to help the families of Kasey Griffey and Ethan Costley, two young children who are experiencing health issues.
On July 8, he is playing host to an alumni basketball game at Wilkinson County. On July 9, there will be a car/bike/ATV ride followed by a car show. All proceeds from both events are going to the families to help them deal with medical bills.
On July 16, Dupree will play host to a football camp at Wilkinson County.
“I’m a real family oriented guy,” Dupree said. “I like being there. My family is hands-on. I like seeing them and helping out the community. I like people to see someone from the same circumstance that they came from and see them in person.”