Druin Mailbag: Do the Steelers Keep Bud Dupree? Mike Tomlin's COTY Resume, and More
About two weeks removed from my last mailbag, and the Steelers still cling to a playoff spot thanks to crucial victories over the Browns and Cardinals. With the Bills, Jets and Ravens still left on the schedule, Pittsburgh's playoff destiny is still controlled by their own outcomes.
We got a lot of solid questions this week, and that's a testament to how awesome our readers are. Shout-out to you guys! Without further delay, let's dive into this mailbag and get things poppin:
Question: What route do the Steelers want in the playoffs? Chiefs or Texans?
Donnie: I'll take the Texans won't think twice about it. The Chiefs are really starting to peak at the right time, and as long as Patrick Mahomes is alive and well, Kansas City is a threat to anybody. Aside from their offense, Kansas City's defense is starting to put pieces of their own puzzle together as well.
This isn't to discredit the Texans, as they're just as dangerous with Deshaun Watson and company. While both offenses would be a handful to deal with, I'm of the belief that KC's defense is currently better equipped to stop Pittsburgh, and I'd much rather head into NRG Stadium than Arrowhead. Factoring defense and home-field advantage, it's hard not to choose Houston over Kansas City in this scenario.
Question: Do the Steelers even use a tight end if Vance McDonald isn't available on Sunday? Nick Vannett and then Zach Gentry? Not ideal.
Donnie: Well... You may not be wrong. The good news? In McDonald's only game of missing action, Pittsburgh won 27-3. In that game, Nick Vannett logged 44 snaps that night, while Zach Gentry played 25. While Vannett hasn't necessarily made an impact thus far, he hasn't quite played terrible on that note. As for Gentry... He simply isn't reliable to roll onto an NFL field right now.
Pittsburgh may use Vannett sparingly and bring in an extra blocker (sound the alarms for "No. 72 has reported as eligible") in McDonald's absence. This may force Fichtner to open the playbook more and utilize more 4 WR sets. That's still in the air, but McDonald being out obviously is a huge loss for the Steelers.
Question: Do the Steelers keep Bud Dupree this offseason or does he go to a team who can pay him more?
Donnie: So a little over a month ago I wrote an article on precisely this issue. Long story short, the Steelers don't have the cap to do it as it stands. They can finesse some moves and create about $20 million in space, and Dupree is seriously looking at upwards of $15 million per season. Between him, Javon Hargrave and a handful of other names that will be seeking a nice check, the Steelers will essentially have to commit to one, maybe two if they're getting a hometown discount.
The point I brought up in the article I wrote was a dilemma Pittsburgh has: Do you pay Dupree the hefty check seeing what his potential actually is? Or do you decide against paying a man who has only produced 1/5 seasons in the league?
At the end of the day, I think Pittsburgh really prefers to keep him around. The move to even extend his fifth-year option spoke to their confidence in Dupree, and now that he's proven capable of wrecking havoc opposite of Watt, I think they try their absolute best to get a deal done.
Question: Is Mike Tomlin a lock for coach of the year given all of the injuries, and the response after a 1-4 start?
Donnie: While I wouldn't necessarily say he's a lock, he's a damn good option right now. I think if the Steelers make the playoffs he's a serious contender for that job. It's just amazing what the team has done, given the circumstances they've dealt with all season.
John Harbaugh, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McDermott are also serious contenders for the title as well. Each coach has done a tremendous job with their squads this season, and I think whoever wins it, nobody can really be upset. I do believe Tomlin has done less with more, however.
Question: How much trouble can a healthy Steelers squad cause if they can get into the playoffs?
Donnie: We'll see my man. Pittsburgh's "Cinderella" path this season has really been incredible, and if they make the playoffs, that's an absolute success of a season if I've ever seen one. I may be weary of the inexperience of Devlin Hodges, but I'm not too sure Pittsburgh would be able to last in a shoot-out with the likes of the Chiefs, or a chess-match with the Patriots.
Yet if there's anything to be learned from this year, it's that any team can win/lose on a given week. If healthy, the Steelers play phenomenal defense and run the ball well with acceptable quarterback play. That's the ultimate recipe for a Lombardi trophy right there.
I'm not holding my breath though, and that's not a knock on the Steelers, but more-so a level of respect for the other clubs they would be facing.
Thanks for participating in this week’s mailbag. There were great questions sent and with the playoffs in sight it’ll be just as eventful next week. Make sure to send all mailbag questions to our Twitter and Facebook pages.