Steelers Former Edge Rushing Duo Ranks Top 5 in QB Disruption

The Pittsburgh Steelers had two of the best edge rushers of 2020.
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Two Pittsburgh Steelers, one past and one present, ranked in the top 10 for disruption rate in 2020. 

T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree were one of the NFL's best edge rushing duos last season. According to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats, they were both in the top five for disrupting the quarterback. Watt ranked first and Dupree ranked fifth. 

For much of 2020, it seemed as if Watt was bound to join his brother as a Defensive Player of the Year award winner. He was a force, especially when he was afforded the opportunity to line up opposite Bud Dupree. However, Watt's aforementioned decline following Dupree's injury and a strong finish from world-renowned interior terror Aaron Donald swung the award away from Watt in the season's final weeks. The Next Gen Stats show that the Steelers star was indeed the best at disrupting opposing offenses, though. Watt led the league in disruptions (80), racking up that total on 435 pass-rushing snaps for a rate of 18.4 percent, which also was the best in the NFL. He was tops in pro football in sacks, too, with 15. Essentially, every pass-rushing metric we want to explore responds by shouting "T.J. WATT" at us, as if we're asking a magic mirror who's the most disruptive of them all. He provided league-best production despite sitting out in Week 17, too. Another season like this would be hard to ignore when deciding Defensive Player of the Year.

Dupree left for Tennessee in free agency, signing a five-years $82.5 million with the Titans. Despite playing just 11 games in 2020, the 2015 first-round pick caused plenty of problems for opposing passers. 

Dupree and T.J. Watt were the league's top two players in average pass-rush get-off (0.72 seconds), so it's no surprise to see these 2020 teammates on the list. Dupree's season came to an end in Week 12 due to an ACL tear, but his absence only further illustrated his value off the edge. In the 12 games Dupree played in, Watt recorded a 19 percent pressure rate. With Dupree out, Watt's pressure rate fell to less than 10 percent, underscoring Dupree's importance to the defense. As for the numbers Dupree recorded prior to his injury, they were still darn good, and they go beyond the realm of pass rushing. He logged the second-most hustle stops -- tackles where the player covers 20-plus yards of in-play distance from snap to tackle -- in the entire league among players with at least 250 pass-rush snaps (6), proving Dupree is more than just a pass rusher. Provided he returns fully healthy in 2021, the Titans will be glad he's now on their side after signing him to a five-year deal this offseason.

Dupree and Watt combined for 23 sacks and 56 quarterback hits last season. The Steelers will turn to second-year linebacker Alex Highsmith to fill Dupree's role in 2021.

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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