Defensive Stoppers to Dolphins and Redskins?
The 2019 Steeler season had its share of highs and lows with everything from Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending injury, the trade for Minka Fitzpatrick, the emergence of Duck Hodges and of course the eventual fall of the Duck as the team stumbled to an 8-8 finish. So what now? For starters it's time to speculate on two key players who may not be back next season; linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive lineman Javon Hargrave. Both are unrestricted free agents and may get offers from other teams they can't refuse.
Hargrave has a quiet demeanor and it's ironic that he is quietly one of the best interior defensive lineman that will be available in free-agency. This past season the former South Carolina State Bulldog had 35 solo tackles, four sacks and was a constant disruptive force in the front seven. While most of the attention went to deserving teammates T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Dupree, their acclimation was due in part to the push up the middle provided by Hargrave. Considering that he is an unsung hero and sleeper free agent, #79 will be a prime candidate for a team like the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are loaded with drafts picks but will also be a suitor for a productive disruptive force on their emerging defe se. The Steelers would be wise to keep him.
So what about Bud? When you make 49 solo stops and 11.5 sacks you are sure to command attention as a free agent and that's what Bud Dupree will receive. During his finest season as a Steelers the former Kentucky Wildcat put up numbers almost equal to his running mate Watt. The front office will certainly make a play to keep the dynamic duo together but with Dupree having a chance to cash-in on an elevated Powerball like contract, his days in the Black and Gold could be numbered. One destination to keep an eye on is Washington. The Redskins and new defensive-minded coach Ron Rivera may be just a rush linebacker away from having a dominant defense. Their front seven already includes Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat and they will add Ohio State's stud Chase Young with the second pick in the draft. If they stir in a proven quarterback chaser like Dupree, their defense would be more than difficult for opposing offenses.
As for the Steelers, with no first-round draft pick and more needs on offense, Mike Tomlin's defense may find it difficult to repeat the 2019 blueprint without one or both of the above mentioned stalwarts. It may make sense to put a franchise tag on Dupree and sign Hargrave to a new deal.
For more on the Steelers listen to 'Steel Talkin'. You can find it here by clicking on the 'Steel Talkin' tab at the top of this page. It's also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
REMINDER: Watch Championship Chase,, October-January on WPGH FOX 53, WPXI Channel 11 and PCNC, The Pittsburgh Cable News Network .