The Pittsburgh Steelers are going into the 2021 season much better than anticipated in regards to their cap issue. The problem is they still have too many free agents going onto the open market because they cannot afford to keep them. Bud Dupree is one of those free agents who is going to be a hot commodity once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Steelers have been adamant about keeping him in Pittsburgh but will let him venture into free agency.
Bud Dupree was franchise tagged in the 2020 season by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He ended up making $15.8 million dollars in 2020, but his season ended early against the Baltimore Ravens. If the Steelers were going to tag him in 2021 his cost would have been $18.8 million, but the Steelers said they have informed Dupree he will not be franchise tagged in 2021. In fact, the Steelers are not going to place the franchise tag on any player in 2021. So that would mean JuJu Smith-Schuster would become a free agent on March 17th as well.
When Dupree went down with an ACL tear the Steelers pass rush production significantly went down without him especially on 3rd down and non-blitzes. Next-Gen Stats on Twitter showed how significantly it went down. In fact, it went down significantly in 5 different categories when Dupree could not play with the Steelers. The Steelers dropbacks, sack rate, pressure rate, pressure rate on 3rd downs, and pressure rate on non-blitzes went down.
Alex Highsmith took over for Dupree as a Rookie in 2020. He did not do a bad job. In fact, he did better than Bud did during his rookie season. The problem with Highsmith is he didn't get a full training camp as most rookies do their first season. So that set him back a little bit, but he still pulled in 48 combined tackles, 30 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 interception mid-way through the season. If Dupree walks in the offseason, which looks like is very possible, Alex Highsmith will be the next man up in Pittsburgh. Many football analysts are really high on Alex as well so it looks like he could become the next stud in Pittsburgh if he stays healthy.