“…the guys know that the playing field is level. We don’t care by what means guys get here. Capable guys, guys that prove that they can be positive competitors to our efforts will be given an opportunity to play.” – Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, following the 2015 NFL Draft.
Steelers first round pick Bud Dupree is quickly learning that Mike Tomlin means what he says and says what he means, especially when it comes to rookies.
- Mike Tomlin’s philosophy on rookies is simple: He does not believe in anointing them.
He went so far as to create a faux competition between Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott to avoid the appearance of “handing” the starting job to Maurkice Pouncey when Pouncey was a rookie.
It’s true that he immediately installed Ryan Shazier as that starter during Steelers 2014 OTA’s, but that experiment left Tomlin with a bit of buyer’s remorse, as pointedly did not get his starting job back when he returned to health late in 2014 and found himself vying for snaps with Vince Williams and Sean Spence.
Just how serious does Mike Tomlin take his philosophy on rookies? Some of you might remember this little play:
For those of you taking notes, that play came in week 2 when the Steelers upset the Titans in 2010. The play is all the more remarkable because it was Antonio Brown’s first touch of an NFL football.
- How did Tomlin reward the rookie for his efforts?
He kept Brown inactive for 6 of the next 9 weeks, reminding people that Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were “Two dogs” competing for one bone.
Now fast forward to the Hall of Fame Game. Mike Tomlin held many veterans out. Among those were James Harrison and Jarvis Jones. So naturally you’d think Mike Tomlin’s choice to accompany Arthur Moats at outside linebacker with the first unit would be his first round pick, Bud Dupree?
- It’s a logical choice. Give your rookie exposure vs. the Viking’s first string.
Guess again. Instead the preseason start when to Shayon Green, who was an undrafted rookie free agent last year with the Miami Dolphins. When the Steelers signed Shayon Green, 1 month prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, it appeared that Green was just “a body.” Someone to fill out the training camp roster.
- Green has been playing well in camp, and played well in the Hall of Fame game, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
Bud Dupree didn’t see any action until the 2nd quarter, and by many accounts his performance was uneven – at best. Still, give the Steelers 2015 1st round draft choice some credit – he knows how to say the right things. When asked about his playing time, Dupree admitted “We’ve got good players on the team already. Nothing is going to be given to you, I just have to go out there and take it.”
That is exactly the type of attitude you want to hear from a rookie at St. Vincents.
Dupree’s Debut Draw Mixed Reviews
Once he got into the game, Bud Dupree played almost until the end, and drew mixed reviews from the press. Fowler credited Dupree for showing good speed but described it as a “quiet night.” Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wasn’t so kind.
In Bouchette’s eyes, Dupree “looked completely lost” and lacked football instincts, asserting that “…he did not look like a natural football player out there.” A day later, however, Bouchette cautioned a reader not to get concerned about Dupree yet.
The Dale Lolley, flat out asserted that Dupree needed to learn to get off blocks, something he struggled with in college. Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider noted that Dupree failed to shed the tight end who was blocking him on an 18 yard run that resulted in a Vikings touchdown, but repeatedly cautioned his readers against judging Dupree too harshly.
Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review perhaps provided the most positive assessment of Dupree, crediting him with getting stronger against the run and generally being in position. Paulk however got Dupree on the record complaining (or at least noting) that he was being held more in the NFL than in college.
- As Dupree explained to Paulk “Once you get held, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
That attitude is slightly more worrisome. As James Harrison can testify, NFL officials are more than ready to look the other way when offensive lineman hold Steelers pass rushers.