By LARRY VAUGHT
Was it really almost five years that the Pittsburgh Steelers took Bud Dupree with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and gave him a four-year contract worth more than $9 million?
He finished his rookie season with 26 combined tackles, four sacks, and a pass deflection while playing in all 16 regular-season games, including five starts — and none of that surprised Kentucky fans after his all-SEC career.
He’s had 200 tackles, 31.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and nine pass deflections with the Steelers and had the fifth-year option on his contract picked up before the 2018 season. He didn’t agree to a new contract during the 2019 season but Monday the Steelers made sure he would stay with Pittsburgh by placing the “franchise tag” on him because he was so good last season the team had no choice but to pay up to keep him.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said after the 2019 season that keeping Dupree was a “priority” for the Steelers after he had a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019. Dupree also set a single season high with 16 tackles for a loss in 2019, ranking him fifth in the NFL. Dupree also added four forced fumbles and had two fumble recoveries.
That season got Dupree the big contract that he gambled he could earn. He could possibly make up to $16 million in 2020 if he signs the franchise tag. The former UK linebacker could make even more if he signs a long-term contract with the Steelers before July 15.
General manager Kevin Colbert said Monday he doesn’t think reaching a deal with Dupree will be a problem. Dupree is popular with Pittsburgh fans as well as teammates and coaches since he’s missed just one game in the last three years.
I can still remember when Dupree came to Kentucky as a three-star tight end out of Georgia. He had 10 touchdown catches and over 1,000 yards his final high school season — along with 62 tackles and 10 sacks.
During preseason practice before his freshman year, he moved to linebacker and played in all 12 games. He had 91 tackles in 2012, including 12.5 for loss. As a junior he moved to defensive end and had 61 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. He had 12.5 tackles for loss among his 74 tackles in 2014.