Steelers rookie LB Bud Dupree making quick impression

Bud Dupree chased down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for a sack in the Steelers' opener. (Winslow Townson/AP)
Bud Dupree chased down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for a sack in the Steelers’ opener. (Winslow Townson/AP)

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The opening line on Bud Dupree’s NFL resume looks pretty good.

One game. One sack of a future-Hall of Fame quarterback. One jolt of energy for a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker group still sorting itself out.

Dupree’s chase down of Tom Brady in last Thursday’s 28-21 loss to New England served as a bright spot on a sluggish night for the defending AFC North champions, who had little answer for Brady or tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Dupree tackled a scrambling Brady just behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-10 play in the first quarter, but the 22nd-overall pick in the 2015 draft says he will remember his first regular season game as much for the outcome as for his unblocked takedown of Brady.

“It was definitely a moment to remember, but you want to get that win,” Dupree said.

That will have to wait at least until Sunday’s home opener against San Francisco, which will present a decidedly different challenge than New England. Where the Patriots focus on having Brady throw the ball as quickly as possible, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tends to make more plays with his legs.

“If you make one mistake, he’ll get down the field,” Dupree said.

The Steelers made several mistakes against the Patriots, most of them involving Gronkowski. Dupree was in coverage when Brady hit Gronkowski for a long gain that set up a touchdown. Dupree blamed it on a miscommunication with the secondary, though he wasn’t in the mood to fault anyone else.

“I blew it,” he said.

That maturity drew the Steelers to Dupree last spring. Well, that and a combination of strength and football sense Pittsburgh covets in outside linebackers.

The opening few months of Dupree’s professional career weren’t so striking. He got off to a slow start in training camp that lasted until he began picking fights with basically the entire offensive line.

One practice it was Ramon Foster. During another it was Kelvin Beachum. Despite giving up 50 pounds to each player, Dupree didn’t back down when challenged. He brushed off the incidents as something that occurs every summer, though he didn’t downplay their significance either.

“At the end of the day, you’re a grown man so you have to handle your business,” he said.

Veteran linebackers James Harrison and Arthur Moats appreciate that facet of his personality and have praised Dupree’s attention to detail. Dupree sits in the front row during film sessions and is quick to raise his hand when he’s trying to nail down a scheme or a technique.

“He’s definitely been developing every week,” Moats said. “He’s putting the effort in every week and that’s what you want to see from the young guys.”

Dupree is trying to keep up with the old guys, including the 37-year-old Harrison, who saw 38 snaps against the Patriots, the most of any outside linebacker. Dupree was next with 26. While Dupree would love to play every down as he did at Kentucky, he understands that’s not part of the deal in Pittsburgh, which is sticking with a four-man rotation to keep players fresh.

“I don’t think he did anything to get less playing time,” said Harrison. That’s as close as the four-time Pro Bowler gets to a compliment these days.

And that’s fine for now.

“I’ve just got to keep grinding every week like I do,” Dupree said. “With the patience I have, everything will pan out the way I want to.”


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