Steelers GM Kevin Colbert discusses Bud Dupree’s future, Pittsburgh’s offseason plan

Kevin Colbert’s current offseason is far different from the previous 20 he’s experienced as a member of the Steelers’ front office. The Steelers’ staff, like every NFL team, is now working remotely from home after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo informing teams to stay away from their facilities until further notice. The move was made to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, as the NFL continues to make adjustments to how it normally operates. Colbert, speaking from his home, recently conducted an interview with’s Missi Matthews. During the interview, Colbert tackled a number of topics that included the future of OLB Bud Dupree, who was franchise tagged last week just before the start of the league’s new year. 

Colbert made clear the team’s goal continues to be to sign Dupree to a longterm contract. Dupree is coming off a 2019 season that saw him record a career-high 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. 

“Bud Dupree has always been a priority,” Colbert said. “We were able to use the franchise tag, and Bud understood that going into the process. Our message has been consistently, ‘Hey Bud, if we use the franchise tag, our goal is still to sign you and get you locked up as a Steeler for the rest of your career. And that’s what we’ll continue to try to do.’ We understand a little bit better as to what our restrictions are going to be from a cap standpoint after having made a couple of anticipated moves, which aren’t official yet at this point because of some of the circumstances obviously that we’re working under. But Bud has always been a priority and he will continue to be a priority as well move forward.”

Pittsburgh made several reported transactions during the first week of free agency. They inked former Pro Bowl TE Eric Ebron to a two-year, $12 million contract. Pittsburgh also signed former Eagles/Chiefs OL Stefen Wisniewski, a starter on Kansas City’s 2019 Super Bowl championship team, to a two-year deal shortly after the start of free agency. The Steelers then sent a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Ravens in exchange for veteran DT Chris Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick. Pittsburgh has also signed veteran fullback Derek Watt — the younger brother of T.J. Watt — two a two-year contract. 

The Steelers were able to make these moves after QB Ben Roethlisberger, kicker Chris Boswell, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, and TE Vance McDonald cleared about $35 million in cap space after they restructured their contracts just before the start of the new league year. 

While they currently have about $10 million in cap space, Colbert doesn’t anticipate the team making any more free agent signings anytime soon. And while the Steelers were able to address some of their needs on the OL, DL and at TE, they still have several positions to replenish this off-season via the draft, specifically at ILB after releasing Mark Barron (a cap casualty) and losing Tyler Matakevich (who signed a two-year deal with the Bills) in free agency. 

“I think we’re up against it pretty good,” Colbert said of the Steelers’ salary cap situation. “We’ve made a lot of anticipated moves that we wanted to make. Unfortunately, we’ve had to make some subtractions from the roster. Can we still do some things further down the road? Sure. But in the short term, I would say that we’re temporarily … I don’t want to say out of business, but we’re satisfied with where we are at this point. We’ll continue to address it as this continues to unwind.”

While he can’t discuss the team’s recently acquired free agents (the league will not make these signings official until players have passed their physicals and have signed team contracts, two things that have become challenging due to the coronavirus pandemic), Colbert was able to discuss the Steelers’ trade with the Ravens for Wormley, who started 13 games for the over the past two years. Wormley will help make up for the loss of DT Javon Hargrave, who signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Eagles last week. 

“Chris Wormley is someone we’ve always had a lot of respect for,” Colbert said. ‘When he came out of the University of Michigan, he was very interesting for us as a draft-able player. Of course, Baltimore drafted him. He’s had three productive years with them. When he was made available via trade, we just tried to confirm that he’d be available to us as well. We were able to come to an agreeable trade with the Ravens. I’m sure they’re happy with what they got, but we’re very pleased to get a young defensive lineman like Chris Wormley who we valued very much when he came out three years ago from the draft from Michigan.”

When it comes to the team’s current operation, Colbert said that things are “business as usual” as it pertains to the team’s pre-draft evaluation. Colbert said that the team’s day-to-day preparation, which now taking place via video conferencing, is keeping the Steelers on schedule. 

“Prior to us having to leave the offices, Scott Phelps from our IT department, Bob McCartney through our video department, they did a great job of making sure that we could conduct such meetings from our homes,” Colbert said. “We have all the information that we have at this point available to us. We have the video that we need to discuss and work through in these meetings available to us. And really, it’s like we’ve been in the draft room for the last two days working from our homes. We’ve had two really good, productive meeting days. And we’re just trying to stay ahead of the situation we’re in from a work standpoint.”

While this pre-draft process is providing challenges that haven’t previously existed, Colbert is using an iconic draft from nearly a half-century ago as motivation. Colbert discussed his motivation when discussing some of the things that have been canceled, specifically college pro days. 

“We value the pro days. To be able to get close, interact with a player, watch him work out, meet his family and all those sorts of things, that part has been taken away from us,” Colbert said. “We’re not alone in that endeavor; all the teams in the NFL are going through it the same way. 

“What I’ve reminded our staff, our scouts, from the very beginning of the process since the changes of our rules, I reminded them of the 1974 draft that the Steelers conducted, and they ended up with five Hall of Famers. Back in that day, Art Rooney Jr., Bill Nunn and Dick Haley put together the best draft in NFL history, and they didn’t have pro days. They didn’t have combines. They relied on what they felt those guys were as football players. If we have to go into this draft with the same mentality, that’s our challenge, and we’ll do the best we can.”   

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