Steelers training camp preview: All eyes on Watt-Dupree position swap at outside linebacker
The Tribune-Review will examine each position on the Steelers roster as they prepare to report for training camp July 25 at Saint Vincent. Today’s installment looks at the seven outside linebackers:
Bud Dupree: Showing their faith in Dupree, the Steelers exercised his fifth-year contract option in the spring. Now, it’s up to Dupree to prove he is worth the investment. He has underachieved as a pass rusher, but the Steelers believe he will benefit from moving to the right outside linebacker spot where he will come at the quarterback from the blind side. He is looking to build on his six sacks from 2017.
T.J. Watt: In his first year, Watt recorded seven sacks, the second-most by a Steelers rookie. He also had 52 tackles and eight passes defensed. But Watt must show he can adjust to moving to the left side of the defense. His skills in pass coverage and stopping the run could aid his transition.
Anthony Chickillo: Once among the deepest defensive positions, outside linebacker has just one veteran backup in Chickillo, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The former college defensive lineman had three sacks in limited duty last year. He also was a special teams contributor.
Keion Adams: The 2017 seventh-round pick from Western Michigan was considered a bonus player in the ‘18 draft class after he missed his rookie season with a torn labrum that required surgery. He took a lot of reps with the second team in offseason workouts and is looking to solidify a role behind Dupree and Watt.
Farrington Huguenin: He spent last season on the Steelers practice squad and will push for a spot on the 53-man roster. At Kentucky, he counted Dupree among his teammates and was a 3-4 defensive end before transitioning to outside linebacker with the Steelers.
Darnell Leslie: In May 2017, Leslie earned a contract with the Dallas Cowboys after being invited to rookie minicamp. The former Monmouth player spent time in the Canadian Football League last year and signed a futures contract with the Steelers in January.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi: His name is a mouthful, and he was a handful for offenses while playing at Toledo. In his final year, he had 20 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks for the Mid-American Conference champions. The Steelers added him as an undrafted free agent in April.
Will the Watt-Dupree experiment work?
The Steelers stuck with playing Watt on the left side and Dupree on the right during voluntary offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp. The preseason will be the next chance to see whether the switch has merit. To their credit, Dupree and Watt have embraced the change and said it plays to their strengths as pass rushers. Stay tuned.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.