LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is relaxed entering his contract season.
The 2015 first-round pick knows he has a contract with the Steelers for this season. His future with the Steelers after that is in question, but Dupree said on Sunday that he doesn’t mind the uncertainty.
“I’d rather just be like this right now,” Dupree said. “I’m going to go out, do my thing, help the team and not be selfish even though it’s a contract year. I have to make sure I’m doing things that are beneficial to the unit as a whole and keep playing to the best of my ability.”
The Steelers picked up Dupree’s fifth-year option, guaranteeing a $9.2 million salary this season. But he only has 20 sacks in 54 games through four seasons after he was drafted to rush the passer.
Dupree, who had 5½ sacks last season, said that he “loves the organization” and he can see himself in Pittsburgh beyond the 2019 season, but he’s not focused on a long-term deal at this point.
“I don’t even ask my agent because I just want to go out and play to the best of my ability and have my best year yet,” Dupree said. “I’m going to do my best for them and whatever happens, happens.”
Dupree isn’t strictly a pass rusher with the Steelers, as he is also asked to drop into coverage. He said that’s not lost on defensive coordinator Keith Butler and coach Mike Tomlin, particularly in a contract year when sacks and production can help him earn a large contract.
“Everyone understands what’s at stake for me on a personal level,” Dupree said.
Dupree has also paid attention to the free-agent contracts signed this past offseason by edge rushers, including former Kentucky teammate Za’Darius Smith, who received a four-year, $66 million deal with Green Bay in March.
“It’s fun,” Dupree said. “That just puts more fire up under you to go out and have a great year. Guys are having their best years in their contract year. Confidence is key with yourself and within your team.”
Dupree entered his fifth training camp with the Steelers confident and a lean 260 pounds. He’s also healthy, too. Dupree suffered a torn pectoral muscle at Denver in November, but still finished the regular season, playing in the final five games, and registering one sack, as the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“It kind of messed with me, but it was crunch time,” Dupree said.
Dupree expects to be a significant part of the Steelers defense, which is expected to make a big jump to offset the loss of All-Pros Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell on offense. He set a career high six sacks in 2017, part of a defense that set a franchise record and led the NFL with 56 sacks that season.
Another big season could help the Steelers again and also translate into a big payday. But Dupree isn’t worried about his contract status now.
“My biggest thing is just making the plays out there,” Dupree said. “They see everything I do, they see the progression I’m making. It’s on me to make sure I finish and make the big plays that I need to make.”
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