PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The Steelers had options when they chose at No. 22 in the 2015 NFL Draft Thursday night, including cornerback Byron Jones, who went to Dallas five picks later.

They instead went for a guy who was rated as the best guy on their draft board, Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree, who beefs up their pass rush.

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Dupree ran up 23 1/2 sacks in his career with the Wildcats. The Steelers are badly in need of help along the edge after finishing 26th in the league in sacks in 2014. Dupree is considered to be a solid pick by national observers.

“Very athletic, very strong, played in a defense similar to ours, he stood up very strong against the run, he’s certainly a good pass rusher, he can mix power and speed, and he can cover,” said Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert. “So it’s real exciting that he was able to be there for us at 22; quite honestly, that was something that we didn’t expect to happen.”

Pittsburgh has now taken an outside linebacker in the first round each of the last three seasons.

Pittsburgh grabbed Jarvis Jones with their top pick in 2013 but Jones has struggled to stay healthy, collecting just three sacks in two seasons. The Steelers picked Ryan Shazier last spring but he was limited to seven games during his rookie year due to injuries.

At 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, Dupree is big and fast and should be a natural fit in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense.

The selection of the 22-year-old Dupree is the latest shift in a drastic youth movement on defense.

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Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retired when it became apparent they were not a part of Pittsburgh’s 2015 plans, and defensive end Brett Keisel was cut. Teams moved the ball effortlessly at times against Pittsburgh last season. The Steelers were 18th in yards and points allowed, their worst ranking in both categories since 1991.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau did not have his contract renewed, with longtime heir apparent Keith Butler promoted from linebackers coach to replace the Hall of Famer. Pittsburgh isn’t looking for a total overhaul from Butler but a return to the kind of frantic pass rush that provided the snarl for a defense that catapulted the franchise to two Super Bowl wins and an appearance in another in the last decade.

The Steelers managed just 33 sacks last season and 7 1/2 of them came from linebacker Jason Worilds, who retired in March at age 28 just hours after hitting the free agent market. Another 5 1/2 came from James Harrison, who showed flashes when healthy after coming out of a brief 18-day retirement. Harrison, who turns 37 next week, signed a two-year deal last month to return in more of a specialist role.

Dupree will almost certainly have a chance to make an immediate impact.

In a division that includes Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and a 2015 schedule that includes New England, Denver and Indianapolis, Pittsburgh needs to generate more pressure up front to take some of the heat off a secondary that is very much in flux as it tries to find a new identity without Polamalu and Taylor.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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