About a year after the retirement of legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers are early in a rebuilding project.
No one knows how long that project will last, as it could take them another 20 years to find another franchise QB, as it did after Terry Bradshaw retired exactly 20 years before they drafted Roethlisberger.
Until then, they will have to make incremental improvements, and one of them could involve bringing back an old favorite on defense — outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
Potential reunion: #Steelers are bringing free-agent pass rusher Bud Dupree in for a visit, per sources.
Dupree recorded 39.5 sacks over six seasons with Pittsburgh. He ended last season on IR with Titans but is now healthy. pic.twitter.com/y8p4LCQF6H
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 24, 2023
Dupree, the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, spent his first six seasons with the Steelers, and he peaked in 2019 when he recorded 11.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, 16 tackles for loss and a pick-six.
But he suffered a torn ACL near the end of the 2020 campaign, and after playing that season on Pittsburgh’s franchise tag, he moved on to the Tennessee Titans.
Dupree’s numbers have been underwhelming the last two seasons in Tennessee, as he’s missed six games both years due to injury.
The Steelers ranked just 28th in passing touchdowns allowed in 2022, and they could use a bit more pressure up front alongside superstar pass rusher T.J. Watt, who is coming off a serious injury of his own.
They have made a few additions so far in free agency, including veteran star cornerback Patrick Peterson and offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig.
While expecting a return to the playoffs in 2023 sounds like a bit too much for the Steelers, perhaps putting together a very stout defense is a somewhat realistic expectation.