By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the final weeks of the 2015 NFL regular season looking toward a successful campaign with the best possible personnel on the field. They have had some players show some exceptional growth through the first half of the season and a couple that have yet to produce much to be excited about. We take a look at the players who are making a name for themselves and others who are likely to see little time on the field for the Steelers in their last six games.
When it comes to players that are on the list of week-to-week improvement, rookie linebacker Bud Dupree’s name comes to the top. Dupree has played in every game for the Steelers in his first NFL season, but has yet to get a start. That hasn’t kept him from showing exceptional speed and maturity on the field when he has been sent in. Dupree has recorded 19 total tackles and four sacks, just 0.5 sacks behind team leader Stephon Tuitt and tied with Cam Heyward.
“I need to continue to improve, make sure I get better each game and help my team win,” said Dupree. “I want to keep improving in the passing game, in the running game. Honestly, just keep improving in everything.” Linebackers coach Joey Porter has rotated his outside linebackers, but hasn’t limited any of them to a certain number of snaps. “For me to get (Dupree) in there, play (Harrison), rotation is good for now,” said Porter.
It isn’t typical that a punter gets high accolades, but in the case of Aussie Jordan Berry, there has been little to complain about. His longest punt on the season went for a booming 79 yards. In 42 punts, Berry has recorded 1,778 yards and a yards-per-punt average of 42.3. He has put 20 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, allowing only 16 returns. “It’s a pretty good feeling when the ball comes off your foot and that is what you are out here trying to do every day,” said Berry.
The Steelers have seen a few players that just haven’t lived up to expectations in the first half of the season. Heading into the last six games, these players are on the bubble of being deemed duds.
Brandon Boykin was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth or fifth round draft pick, but Boykin has yet to play in at least 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps to require Pittsburgh to surrender a fourth-round pick. Boykin has made just six tackles and one pass defense despite the secondary’s struggles in pass defense. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake explained Boykin’s lack of playing time, saying,“somebody else would have to be playing badly…I have faith and confidence that he can play. It’s just that we’re doing okay.” It is a bit of a quandary whether this is the whole story or not. Antwon Blake has had his ups and downs, but Ross Cockrell has done well stepping in. Blake would apparently have to have an absolutely terrible game for Boykin to make an appearance with the defense.
Jacoby Jones is another player the Steelers picked up as a free agent signing during the season to help with kick return duties after running back Dri Archer did not prove effective. Jones was signed on November 5, playing in two games, but has made four returns for a total of 83 yards; his longest went for 24 yards. It is a far cry from his glory days in 2012 with the Baltimore Ravens when he returned 38 kickoffs for 1,167 yards and two touchdowns, a career best. Jones has spent nine years in the league, but the Steelers have yet to see him make much headway in special teams. As a punt returner, Jones had fielded three kicks and returned two with an average of 0.7 yards and one fumble.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on