Bud Dupree now has his sights set on winning a Lombardi Trophy -- something he has not yet experienced -- with a different team.
Before he fully embarked on that journey, though, he took the opportunity to send a heartfelt message to the fan base that cheered him for the past six seasons.
The Tennessee Titans’ high-profile free-agent addition, who is expected to bolster a pass rush that struggled last season, will surely miss Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Those who don the black and gold have long been known as some of the most passionate in the NFL, with historic traditions and superstitions.
Clearly, the one thing Dupree will miss most will be when thousands of Steelers fans, packed into Heinz Field, roar to Styx’s Renegade, a song that is played when blood was in the water, when crunch time commences.
“They play ‘Renegade,’ people go nuts, and then big things happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s just how it goes,” Dupree wrote in a farewell article, featured on Players Tribune. “(Don’t even get me started about those Double Renegade games.) It’s legendary, man. I’ve never had more fun on a football field in my life. It’s just absolutely special.”
A first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Dupree spent his first six NFL seasons with the Steelers. While the city will always be a home away from home to him now, he said he knew little about it before he arrived for his rookie season following a standout career at the University of Kentucky.
He knew of the stars that came before him, tight end Hines Ward. He knew of eventual teammates like quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, who is well on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He did not know the blue-collar Pittsburgh and Steeler way. He found out quickly, though, when various teammates showed him how that was done.
“It was all about working hard and doing things that basically reflected the city, and the people of Pittsburgh,” he wrote. “It wasn’t anything super complicated or some secret strategy. It was just basically … Pittsburgh.
“... Hard work. Blue collar. Shut up and do your job. Look after your teammates. Be accountable. Uphold the standard. Rinse and repeat.”
The athletic linebacker, tabbed as a pure pass rusher, played in 81 games and recorded 39 1/2 sacks, including at least four in each of his six seasons, 231 tackles and 54 tackles for a loss.
But success did not happen instantly. Dupree wrote that he dealt with injuries in his first few seasons and felt some level of pressure when things did not go according to plan.
That, of course, prompted some to doubt him and his abilities. But that’s not to say that most of the fans base did not have his back through those difficulties.
“That meant the world to me,” Dupree said. “And it was part of the reason why I never doubted myself and knew that I’d eventually be special for the Black and Gold. Even during the toughest moments, I always kept my head high and my chest out.”
Dupree wrote that the way Steelers fans traveled always amazed him. He recalls helping run a football camp in Mexico City, and how the event sold out and was filled with Steelers fans. When the team played on the road, Dupree always felt struck by the amount if infamous ‘Terrible Towels” waving in the stands.
Poetically, Dupree won’t have to wait long for a return trip to his old stomping grounds. The Titans are scheduled to play the Steelers at Heinz Field in 2021, date and time to be announced later this spring.
That moment, he wrote, will be surreal and emotional for him. But he won’t stop carrying Pittsburgh’s attitude on his sleeve no matter where he goes.
He just won’t hear Renegade playing when he is on the field with the defense.
“There’s so much I’m going to miss about this amazing city, and the people of Pittsburgh,” he wrote, “but make no mistake about it: That experience, that Renegade Moment, that’s right up there.”