As the list of players entering the 2020 draft finalizes, it’s time for one final look back at the top Pittsburgh Steelers from 2019.
A lot of things went wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, but the team persevered in the face of massive injuries and almost made the playoffs. While the team did finish 8-8 and miss the postseason, plenty of players posted career numbers en route to a surprising season.
The players that appear in the following slides are not the most important players on the team, that’s a different category, but these five players did leave fans wanting more in 2019.
Hopefully, all of these players will return in 2020 and continue playing at an incredibly high level.
5. Bud Dupree, OLB
The Steelers reached when they selected Bud Dupree with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. At least, that was the sentiment for many fans following the selection, and Dupree’s play confirmed that assertion for his first four seasons in the league. However, Dupree played at another level in 2019.
Dupree accumulated 20 sacks and 33 quarterback hits in his first four seasons. While that’s solid production, it doesn’t fit the expectations for a first-round selection. The Steelers bet on Dupree when they picked up the struggling linebacker’s fifth-year option. The move paid off.
In the period of a season, the conversation around Dupree shifted from questioning whether he would ever look like a top selection to how the Steelers will retain him in free agency. Alongside Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt, Dupree posted the best numbers of his career.
Dupree caught fire in 2019, posting 11.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits. He also set career-highs in tackles (68) and tackles for loss (16). 2010 was the last time both of Pittsburgh’s starting outside linebackers crossed the ten-sack mark (James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley).
The Kentucky product could demand a lucrative new contract in free agency, but the Steelers want him back for another season. Retaining Dupree will take some creative cap space manipulation by Pittsburgh.