Bud Dupree's mission: Double-digit sacks for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Watching game film from last season was painful for Bud Dupree, who saw too many sacks left on the field.

"I just left double-digit sacks on the field," said Dupree, a third-year pass-rusher who finished with a career-high six in 2017. "I still can get double-digit sacks even though I’m in coverage a lot. I just have to capitalize on my opportunities. I’ve just got to close the deal."

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't had a 10-sack outside linebacker since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in 2010. Becoming the next would make Dupree an attractive candidate for a contract extension next summer while boosting a promising but erratic career.

The first-round pick in 2015 has played well enough to earn a fifth-year option but is seeking more splash after one forced fumble and no interceptions since entering the league.

Clearly the Steelers expect more, with general manager Kevin Colbert pointing out in March that Dupree was "just scratching the surface" of his potential.

Dupree plans to validate the faith by earning a place among the greats.

"They see the ceiling that I have," Dupree said. "I feel myself getting better and better each day. I know I’m going to be the best I can be, one of the most talked-about at my position."

The Steelers often used Dupree and rookie T.J. Watt in pass coverage last season, which is a compliment to their athleticism but limits chances at the quarterback. Still, Dupree insists there are enough plays out there. And since this is the time of year for tinkering, Watt and Dupree were seen rushing off the same side of the field during organized team activities, Dupree confirmed.

Clean up a few technique issues -- including misjudging plays or staying too high, Dupree says -- and the sacks will come.

"Make plays within the scheme and it will happen," said Dupree, who has 14.5 career sacks but has battled injuries the past two years, including a nagging shoulder issue last year. "You don’t want to be stagnate. You just have to finish."

With veterans Harrison and Arthur Moats out of the lineup, Dupree can grow into a leader at his position.

He knows production will facilitate that role.

"You just have to finish," Dupree said.