Steelers LB Bud Dupree will try to mimic James Harrison vs. Chiefs' Eric Fisher
For the first time in his four seasons as Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, Keith Butler doesn’t have his secret weapon to spring on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Butler always had James Harrison around to torment Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher.
“James kind of put the fear of God in him a little bit and with good reason,” Butler said Thursday. “He had good games against these guys.”
Until he was released by the Steelers two days before Christmas, Harrison’s biggest splash in 2017 came in Week 6 in Kansas City. With a minute left in that October game at Arrowhead Stadium, Harrison beat Fisher and sacked quarterback Alex Smith for an 8-yard loss on third down. Smith’s next pass fell incomplete, and the Steelers ran out the clock to preserve a 19-13 win.
That Harrison got the better of Fisher in limited playing time — he had just 15 snaps — was hardly surprising. He had a sack and memorably drew a holding call on Fisher in the waning moments of the Steelers’ 18-16 2016 divisional playoff win in Kansas City that negated a tying 2-point conversion attempt.
Harrison might be gone, but Fisher remains a staple of the Chiefs offensive line and will line up across from Bud Dupree when the Steelers and Chiefs play Sunday at Heinz Field.
Butler has the same expectations of Dupree that he had of Harrison.
“We’ve got to get after the quarterback like we always do,” he said. “That’s part of our success rate.”
But can Dupree wreak the same kind of havoc on Fisher, who, despite his high-draft pedigree, hasn’t been selected to a single Pro Bowl? Dupree has been watching film of Harrison to see if he can duplicate his success against Fisher.
“Every year, Deebo got into his head,” Dupree said. “We don’t know what he did, but he did it.”
Last year, Dupree was on the left side, and T.J. Watt started on the right — with Harrison subbing in — when the Steelers played Kansas City.
Dupree and Watt switched sides in the offseason and debuted in their new spots Sunday in Cleveland. They combined for four of the team’s seven sacks.
Pursuing the quarterback from the blind side, Dupree had five tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Rushing from the left side, Watt had three sacks — a fourth was taken away by NFL statisticians midweek — and 10 tackles.
“T.J. had a great game, and Bud played well for us, too,” Butler said. “Bud, I think he’ll get better the more he plays on that right side. It’s a little bit different for him. The more he gets used to it, he’ll be OK.”
Fisher, who is in his sixth season, will represent a step up in class for Dupree. Against Cleveland, Dupree lined up across from Desmond Harrison, an undrafted free agent rookie making his NFL debut.
“Being on the right side, I’m going to go against all of the top-notch guys in the league,” Dupree said. “Every time I get a chance to play against those type of players, it’s fun. You want to go against the best in the business.”
When he rushed from the left side, Dupree had a tendency to overpursue the quarterback, who would step up in the pocket to avoid pressure. Some old habits appeared to resurface against the Browns. Dupree was pushed wide of Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor several times in the opener and estimates the Steelers left “three or four” sacks on the FirstEnergy Stadium surface.
This week, Dupree will see if he can duplicate his opening-game performance and perhaps even steal a page from Harrison’s playbook against Fisher.
“Deebo went with speed and power a lot,” defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. “He challenged tackles where you go to play him one way, and he’s going to expose you another way. Whether’s it’s a simple rip or pulling it through and turning the edge to the quarterback. … Bud has all the keys to doing that.
“I expect him to do it. It’s not about getting past the quarterback and being a physical player. It’s also about attacking with speed. You can attack with speed and then turn it into power.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.