Steelers’ Jones, Dupree may see more time

PITTSBURGH (TNS) – One minute, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was talking about wanting to do away with the rotation system he used last season at outside linebacker and preferring instead to use his two former No. 1 picks – Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree – 90 percent of the time.

Bud Dupree

Bud Dupree

Jarvis Jones

Jarvis Jones

The next minute, Butler said the Steelers have to make sure they get the rotation at outside linebacker that’s beneficial to the team, not necessarily to the player.

“We’re here to win games, not worry about someone’s ego,” Butler said.

Butler, who begins his second season as defensive coordinator, might desire to have Dupree and Jones on the field majority of the time in 2016. But he has not forgotten about the player who keeps clouding that from happening because he refuses to act his age – James Harrison, who, at age 38, is coming back for one more season after playing more snaps (611) than any outside linebacker in 2015.

Butler has talked each of the previous two seasons about monitoring Harrison’s snap count and reducing his playing time because of his age. But it never seems to work, even though Jones started all 17 games, including two in the postseason, in which he appeared. Harrison gets the bulk of the playing time at right outside linebacker, especially late in the game and in key situations.

Harrison led all outside linebackers in sacks last season (5), even though three came in the second half of a blowout victory against Indianapolis.

“We want guys in there who are going to best help us, and if they’re in good enough shape and they don’t drop off then we’ll leave them in there,” Butler said. “If they’re tiring out, then we need to have them out of there. Most of the games are won in the third and fourth quarter.

“We prefer to do that and we prefer with Bud and Jarvis. We don’t want to keep anyone from playing. What we’re trying to do is win ballgames and put the best guys on the field we can.”

Dupree has prepared for more playing time by reporting to training camp at 253 pounds, down 17 pounds from his reported weight last year as a rookie. But he has not practiced the past four days at Saint Vincent College because of a bruised groin and hopes to return today when the Steelers have the first of two joint practices with the Detroit Lions.

Arthur Moats started the first 10 games of the 2015 season at left outside linebacker but it was only until the Steelers thought Dupree was ready. Dupree started five of the last six games and both playoff contests, but still split time with Moats. That will change this year.

The Steelers want Dupree on the field as much as possible.

“I heard we’re going to try to narrow the rotation down and keep me and Jarvis on the field,” Dupree said Sunday during a break at camp. “The more reps the better. Anything is good. I always want to be on field.”

Dupree is ready for that, and not just because of the weight loss that he said will allow him to stay on the field longer and not get tired.

That, though, is what Butler wants to see. And how much Dupree has progressed since his rookie season when he had four sacks, though none in his last 10 games.

“It’s just being more comfortable on the field, having more people trusting you and expecting more things of you,” Dupree said. “I just got to go out and perform. I just feel way more comfortable, way more relaxed, on the field. I’m ready for the season to kickoff and ready to get back going.”