Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree was so locked in to his assignment, that he had no clue the Minnesota Vikings started Case Keenum for injured quarterback Sam Bradford until the second series of Pittsburgh’s 26-9 victory on Sunday, when Dupree found himself chasing the sub.
“Then I got back there (in the backfield), I knew (Bradford) was way taller and I was like, ‘that ain’t even him,’” said Dupree, who starred in college at the University of Kentucky.
Dupree, who missed the season opener with a shoulder injury, spent most of the rest of the afternoon getting a close-up look at Keenum, spearheading another solid defensive performance by the Steelers. He made two tackles, including a quarterback sack, and deflected a pass.
Pittsburgh (2-0) held the Vikings to 237 total yards, sacked Keenum twice and kept Minnesota rookie running back Dalvin Cook under wraps.
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For a team that spent most of the offseason talking about its high-powered offense, the guys on the other side of the ball are more than holding their own until the “Killer Bs” gets it together.
“We know the offense is going to score points,” Dupree said.
Maybe, but not yet. The Steelers have only four offensive touchdowns through two games, forcing the defense to be something more than adequate. So far, it hasn’t been an issue, though Pittsburgh is well aware sterner tests await after facing Cleveland rookie DeShone Kizer and Keenum — a journeyman who got the nod when Sam Bradford’s swollen left knee prevented him from playing — in the first two weeks.
“You see leaps and bounds (of improvement),” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “We’re better in some instances, whether it’s our technique and execution. But we’ve got to get better. It’s just two games. I’m not going to jump head over heels because it’s two games.”
Still, Dupree borrowed one of head coach Mike Tomlin’s favorite “Tomlinisms” when he offered “we have the arrow pointing up” when asked about the strides the defense is making. Pittsburgh has allowed just 474 net yards through two games, an impressive start for a group that finished a pedestrian 12th in the league in 2016.
“We’re going to be a great team all the way around,” Dupree said. “Don’t want to be an offensive team or a defense team. … We just want to keep it rolling.”
Spence steps up
Former Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence sacked the Chicago Bears’ Mike Glennon, forcing a second-quarter fumble that led to a 1-yard TD run by Jacquizz Rodgers in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 29-7 victory. “Obviously not what I had envisioned or hoped. Ultimately it shows how precious taking care of the football is,” said Glennon, who had three turnovers.
Spence, a second-year player, now has 6.5 career sacks and has forced a fumble on three of them.
Wesley Woodyard, LB, Titans: Team-high nine tackles, including one for a loss in win against Jaguars.
Avery Williamson, LB, Titans: Four tackles and a tipped pass that was intercepted by teammate Curtis Riley in win against Jaguars.
Danny Trevathan, LB, Bears: Four tackles, three solo, and a pass defensed in loss to Buccaneers.
Corey Peters, NT, Cardinals: No tackles and one quarterback hit in win against Colts.
Chris Matthews, WR, Ravens: One tackle in win against Browns.
Za’Darius Smith, LB, Ravens: Missed Baltimore’s game against the Browns after suffering a knee injury in the team’s season opener.
Other Kentuckians of note
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts (WKU): Eight catches for 79 yards in loss to Cardinals.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins (Ballard, Louisville): Four catches for 85 yards in win against Chargers.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Titans (WKU): One catch for 42 yards and two carries for 16 yards.
Eli Rogers, WR, Steelers (Louisville): Four catches for 43 yards in win against Vikings.
Josh Bellamy, WR, Bears (Louisville): Four catches for 51 yards in loss to Buccaneers.
Jordan Berry, P, Steelers (EKU): Five punts, two inside the 20, for an average of 38.6 yards against Vikings.
James Burgess, LB, Browns (Louisville): Two tackles, including a sack of Joe Flacco, in loss to Ravens.
William Gay, S, Steelers (Louisville): Three tackles, two solo in win against Vikings.
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets (Louisville): Six carries for 13 yards in loss to Raiders.
Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars (Central, Kentucky Wesleyan): Two catches for 13 yards and one kickoff return for 14 yards in loss to Titans.
Preston Brown, LB, Bills (Louisville): Seven tackles in loss to Panthers.
Mike Mitchell, S, Steelers (Highlands, Covington Catholic): Two tackles and one pass defensed against Vikings.
Keith Tandy, S, Buccaneers (Christian County): Two solo tackles in win against Bears.