LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree can’t wait for the opportunity to sack an opposing quarterback.
The team’s first-round pick hasn’t yet been able to fully unleash through two weeks of training camp practices. Dupree will finally get the chance Sunday when the Steelers meet the Minnesota Vikings in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m very excited about this,” Dupree said. “I’m just looking forward to going out and making plays.”
Dupree has excelled at practice, good news for the Steelers, who drafted the former Kentucky standout to aid a pass rush that has recently struggled to reach the quarterback. Pittsburgh finished 26th last season with just 33 sacks, four years removed from totaling a league-best 48 sacks, which helped the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance.
They hope Dupree can help produce similar results.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linebacker, selected No. 22 overall, is a rare and unique combination of power, size and speed, a versatile impact player that who in rush situations, coverage and run support.
“He’s a big guy and he’s explosive,” running back Le’Veon Bell said. “Not only that, but he has great jump and pass rush moves. He has everything you would ask for in an outside linebacker.”
Bell would know. The All-Pro running back was forced to go one-on-one with Dupree and block the first-round pick during blitz pickup drills at training camp.
“He’s a great pass rusher and he does a great job of anticipating the snap,” Bell said. “As soon as the ball is snapped, he’s gone and that’s something you really can’t coach.”
Bell has taken it upon himself to help Dupree off the field, showing the rookie how to take care of his body and recuperate.
“I kind of took him by my side, put him in the cold tub and made sure he’s doing the hot tub and taking care of his body because he’s going to be a good player for us,” Bell said. We’re going to need him throughout the course of the season.”
The Steelers had a need at outside linebacker following the unexpected offseason retirement of Jason Worilds, a former second-round pick.
They brought back veteran Arthur Moats for three more years, in addition to 37-year-old James Harrison for two seasons, but plan to keep the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year on a limited snap count.
Jarvis Jones, the team’s 2013 first-round pick, was hampered by a wrist injury last year that landed him on short-term injured reserve, but he’s healthy and slated as the starter on the right side.
Moats, who enters his sixth season, is currently starting on the left side ahead of Dupree.
“He’s definitely putting the time in, working on different things to get better,” Moats said about Dupree. “One day, he’s working on his hands and the next is about getting off the ball faster. You can tell he’s trying to make sure his game is well-rounded, so he can be productive.”
Dupree works mostly on counter moves after primarily relying on his speed at Kentucky where he finished second in school history with 23 1/2 sacks. He said linemen are more talented at the pro level, but linebackers can work to set up multiple moves during repeated game snaps, making a strong counter vital.
“Speed works at any level, but when they stop the speed, what are you going to do after that?” Dupree said. “You always want to have more than one move so if a lineman stops your first move you can go into your second move.
“The next move I do after my first move, I have to make sure it’s explosive as well.”
The Steelers will get a first look at their new linebacker’s moves on Sunday.
“I’ve definitely been looking forward to this,” Dupree said. “I’m just excited to be here and ready to play.”
NOTES: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Bell, WR Antonio Brown, TE Heath Miller, C Maurkice Pouncey and Harrison will not play Sunday. … QB Landry Jones will start and see extended time under center. … RB/WR Dri Archer will initially handle kickoff and punt returns.