By Ron Cook

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Block News Alliance

PITTSBURGH — Character issues?

Not with Bud Dupree, the Steelers' No. 1 draft pick Thursday night.

“I just wanna see my mama happy,” Dupree told the Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader, explaining why he will graduate from Kentucky on time next month in four years with a degree in Community and Leadership Development.

I like the kid already.

That Dupree is a solid citizen is not the only reason Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert called him “a gift for us” at the No. 22 slot in the NFL draft. It wasn't as important as Dupree's size, speed, power and versatility. “He's really a unique animal,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He's his own man.” But the character stuff mattered.

“I try to go about my business the right way,” Dupree told CFB 24/ 7.

The Steelers could have taken highly rated Missouri linebacker Shane Ray, who went to the Denver Broncos at No. 23 despite being cited earlier this week for marijuana possession. They also could have gone after Nebraska rush linebacker Randy Gregory, once a likely top-10 pick who wasn't taken in the first round Thursday night after a positive test for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. But the team didn't sell itself to the devil, so to speak. It didn't take a risk on a player with a questionable background. I like that.

“Very humble,” Colbert said of Dupree. “There was endless support and praise for this kid at Kentucky. They really believe that he was their leader.”

Of course, we'll all like Dupree even more if he can play. Colbert and Tomlin said we won't be disappointed. Of course, they also said that about last year's No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier and the No. 1 pick in 2013, Jarvis Jones. We're still waiting to see it from those guys. Maybe Dupree will produce more and do it sooner.

“He can mix power and speed and he can cover,” Colbert said.

Colbert said the Steelers liked Dupree so much they considered trading up to get him. “We just waited it out. We're really fortunate.”

Dupree played both inside and outside linebacker at Kentucky and both defensive end positions. “He's extremely versatile,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has said.

Tomlin said Dupree will start off in training camp at left outside linebacker, Arthur Moats' position at the moment after Jason Worilds' retirement. Jones and James Harrison are the outside right linebackers. It's easy to think Dupree will be an upgrade over Moats. He had better be an upgrade. If Jones develops in his third season and Harrison can stay healthy and see spot duty as an edge rusher, the Steelers defense should be much improved.

No, Dupree isn't a cornerback, the Steelers' greatest position of need. But that doesn't mean he won't help make the team. A better pass rush will make the coverage in the secondary better. The Steelers also should be able to get a quality cornerback tonight in Rounds 2 and/ or 3.

“There are plenty of good football players left,” Colbert said.

It appears the Steelers got a good one Thursday night. It's a nice start to rebuilding their troubled defense.

Copyright 2015 Block News Alliance. All Rights Reserved. The Block News Alliance includes The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Toledo Blade and WDRB News. Ron Cook is a columnist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.