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Week 13 Blog: All the news and notes

Saturday, December 5

Missing his Bud: All season long we have enjoyed a feature on called, 'Bud Brought a Buddy,' featuring Bud Dupree interviewing one of his teammates.

It's clear that among all of those guests, that fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt is likely Bud's closest 'buddy' on the team, not just a teammate but a close friend who is always there to bounce ideas off of, talk to about things and just have a good time.

And that is what has made the last few days on the field tough for Watt. It's only been a few days since Dupree suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Ravens in Wednesday's game, but for Watt, it feels like forever.

"I miss Bud already," said Watt. "It's been weird just in the short week here without having him around more than anything as a friend, and as a teammate, off the field stuff. Bud is just an extremely likeable guy in this locker room and organization. He is just an unselfish player, person, always putting others in front of him. It's contagious.

"He makes you want to be a better person and football player. I can't wait until he is back around in the building."

Watt agreed with his teammates that it was basically a gut punch when Dupree went down against the Ravens, something that took a lot out of the team. 

"Very deflating," said Watt. "It's just so much going on. When you hear something like that happens, it's like holy cow his season could potentially be over, he's in a contract year. He's such a phenomenal player, a key player for what we do and what makes us who we are as a defense.

"And then you kind of have to fall back on that is what Devin (Bush) was to us too. You have to know it's the next man up mentality. You have guys like Alex Highsmith who is preparing like he has been a starter this whole time. We have to trust that the coaches are going to put him in the best position, us in the best position, to keep going forward. I have all of the confidence in the world in the guys in this locker room that we are going to be all right."

It will be Highsmith, a rookie who was taken in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, who the majority of the work will fall upon, and Watt likes the way the young linebacker gets things done.

"He always come to work ready to grow and get better," said Watt. "That is the thing with him. He is always asking the right questions. I am not able to see guys prepare this year because we are all socially distanced and watching film from home. I know he is prepared. I feel very confident in his ability to step in.

"Bud is such a big impact on our team, not just from a playmaking standpoint but from a leadership role as well. I feel like Alex is going to do a great job with that, but I feel like we are going to have to lean on Ola (Adeniyi) to step up and have some big time playing for us."

Highsmith has seen some playing time already this season giving Watt and Dupree a breather, but this time around, it's going to be a little different and Watt has been getting to know him a little better these days.

"Now it's more of a getting to know each other on the field more with me and the whole defensive front, how we communicate together," said Watt. "He has been getting a handful of snaps a game. Now these snaps are very meaningful, and he is going to be playing a whole lot more of them. We are just trying to get with him how we like things communicated, how I like just simple things like telling me how the tight end is off the line of scrimmage, things like that that Bud and I didn't have to talk about, we just knew what each other liked and how we liked communicating."

Hearing from DeCastro: Guard David DeCastro's addressed a number of subjects in great detail during his Zoom session with the media this morning, including:

Whether or not center Maurkice Pouncey would come off the Reserve/COVID-19 list and play on Monday against Washington:
"I don't know with 'Pounce' and the protocols, I can't keep track. I gave up trying to keep track of what's going on this whole year, it's too much. Just trying to figure out when we're going to play the games is hard enough. Hopefully, we'll get 'Pounce' back as soon as possible but J.C. (Hassenauer) has done a tremendous job stepping in. He's been ready to go, he takes a lot of notes, always locked in and that's what you need as a center.

"A young guy in there, he's the one making all the calls. He's got to make sure we're all on the same page and he's done and good job and we have confidence in him. I like the way he carries himself as a professional. It's hard to replace a guy like 'Pounce.' I don't need to speak about his resume and what he brings not just personally but as a leader. But it's part of the game, at least in 2020 it is. But J.C.'s done a good job and if he needs to play I think he'll do a god job again."

Why the mood of the team was so dour after Wednesday's 19-14 victory over Baltimore:
"The biggest thing was losing Bud (Dupree), that was the most deflating thing. The game itself was, you could kind of feel it going into the week, you change the game, you change the time and there's all this leading up to it and they push it back again. And then the no-fans thing, too, sucks. It felt dead out there a little bit, playing on a Wednesday night, no fans. At the beginning of the season when there were no fans it was a whole new atmosphere, like, 'OK, we can get through this.' You still had that rush of the early season. Now, it's like you're in December, with no fans, you're like, 'What are we doing out here?' a little bit.

"I don't like to make excuses, be professionals and stuff, but we're still humans. We have emotions and not having fans here, it's tough. And with (the Ravens) having guys out (on the Reserve/COVID-19 list), too, there's a human-nature component where you play up and down to your level of play. Not to disrespect them, they still have good guys and they showed it. They played us well and we didn't play great. It'll be a big test this game (against Washington)."

The Steelers' 11-0 record:
"The record this year just kind of feels weird, this whole COVID year. I know we're 11-0 but in this day and age you don't really look too far ahead or behind, you're just kind of stuck in the moment. And that's kind of what it feels like this year. Maybe they shut the season off tomorrow, that's a real possibility nowadays. So you're just enjoying day-to-day life whether it's football, personal life. That's how I look at it. The record is what it is.

"We know, too, as an older guy, regardless of COVID or not, all that matters is when you're peaking and staying healthy. That's why it was tough to lose Bud, a guy like Bud, and you hate to see the injuries. This is the time where you have to make sure you're peaking and getting better. You can't be flattening out or going down."

The five first-round draft picks in Washington;'s defensive line rotation and the five-man fronts Washington sometimes deploys:
"Tremendous talent across the board. We've seen that kind of look, that structure before. The difference is the personality they bring behind it, they have tremendous players, one of the best groups we've faced all year. That's what makes it tough, not the structure but the players."

-- blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Friday, December 4

We have confidence in them: The Steelers know what they have lost on the field with Bud Dupree going on the Reserve/Injured List with a season-ending knee injury that will require surgery.

Dupree was having another strong season with 31 tackles, eight sacks, eight tackles for a loss, 15 quarterback hits, two passes defensed and two forced fumbles through 11 games.

It's not just the on-field presence that will be missed, though. It's his presence in the locker room that will also leave a void.

"Just the juice, the personality, energy," said cornerback Joe Haden. "He is one of the most liked dudes in this locker room. He brings so much energy. One of the nicest dudes. He looks out for everybody. He wants to make sure everybody is having a good time. I really, really, really like Bud. We are locker room mates. He is right next to me in the locker room. He is the juice and he is going to be missed a whole lot in the locker room.

"We see D(evin) Bush in the locker room getting treatment. They do a really good job with D. Bush, Zach (Banner) and I know Bud will too, just being around the facility, around the guys, around the locker room as much as possible. We just feed off of that.

"I love to see them because at the end of the day every time we see them, we know how much they want to be out there."

With Dupree out, the responsibility to step up will fall on two players, rookie Alex Highsmith and third-year linebacker Ola Adeniyi.

"We have great confidence in them," said Haden. "Coach (Mike) Tomlin always says next man up. It's like (Robert) Spillane, how he came in and did it. We feel the same way with Highsmith and Ola. They are just starters in waiting. You know how Coach T says it, just waiting for their opportunity. We have two All-Pro outside linebackers, so the chances are limited. Them getting more of an opportunity. When Highsmith is in there, when Ola is in there, always making plays, attentive in meetings. They always know their assignments. They are just waiting for their opportunity.

"So, I am very excited for them. At the same time, it's going to be a two-man job. I don't think just one of them would be able to fill in for what Bud is doing."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 13 matchup against the Washington Football Team