Daily Focus: Did Steelers OLB Bud Dupree hit a rookie wall?
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Did Bud Dupree hit a rookie wall? That’s the admission from Dupree this week, and on the face of it, it makes sense. He notched four sacks in his rookie season, and all four of them came in the first eight weeks. The problem is that sacks are often not a great measure of a pass-rusher’s performance. They can be influenced by many outside factors, and can come and go based on nothing different the pass-rusher did.
Dupree definitely graded far worse overall over the second half of the season, but he actually generated pressure at a higher level; perhaps the most concerning aspect for Steelers fans is that neither span was good.
The more interesting numbers, though, are his playoff games, because coming off the back of that second-half stretch, he then put together two of his better games of the season. That may well be explained by the level of competition he ran up against in those games, with Denver down to the bare bones on the O-line and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith having his worst season as a pro (albeit playing okay in that game), but it’s still notable for a player experiencing the rookie wall.
The bottom line is that Bud Dupree’s rookie year may have been affected by the rookie wall, but his week-by-week grading shows he has bigger problems than that if he is going to justify his lofty draft status and be the kind of impact player the Steelers need him to be.
Leon Hall could make decision soon: It’s reported that former Bengals CB Leon Hall could make a decision on where he will play in 2016 soon, according to Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910.
Hall was once one of the best slot corners in the game—arguably the best—but injuries have taken a steep toll on a very good player, and he hasn’t played more than 90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps since 2012.
He also hasn’t recorded a negatively-graded season in his career, and his coverage grade has been firmly in the green every year, too. Even though his last two seasons have been among his weakest, he still graded well and showed himself to be a very solid slot corner.
In today’s NFL, slot corners are de facto starters, and Hall played over 700 snaps in 2015, so is a player that would be a major contributor to any defense that needed an upgrade there. As a veteran presence and depth on the roster, there is likely no better option available to cornerback-needy teams.
Should Steelers go for two every TD? Ben Roethlisberger talked about the possibility that the Steelers would go for two every time they scored in the future, and no team is a more likely candidate than the Steelers.
They went for more two-point conversion attempts last season than any other team—11, five more than the next closest team—and made eight of them (72.7 percent).
Between Chris Boswell and Josh Scobee, the team also missed two PATs from the new 15-yard mark last season. Their success rate on PATs was 94.1 percent, almost in lock-step with the league-wide mark of 94.2.
If they had gone for two every time last season, they would have earned 64 points from their 45 touchdowns compared to 42 if they had just kicked the ball after each score, or the 48 they actually managed in 2015. If they could maintain their success rate on two-point conversion attempts going forwards, they would definitely be better off in overall points terms going for it every time.
The only issue becomes whether that is sustainable and whether the in-game fluctuations in that rate cost them wins. Last season, they beat the Raiders by a field goal having kicked all five PATs. It’s possible that their overall two-point rate would still be over 70 percent, but for a game like that to feature just one success from five attempts, it could cost them the game in the process.
The Steelers clearly lost confidence in their kicking at times last season, as demonstrated by changing kickers if nothing else, and they set a record for successful two-point conversions (eight), but even they were still a long way off going for it every attempt. At the numbers they had in 2015, though, the math says they could give it a shot and be better off overall.