Ex-Steeler tight end Cunningham dies

Steelers notes

CLEVELAND — Bennie Cunningham, a versatile tight end who starred at Clemson and won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has died. He was 63.

The university says Cunningham died of cancer Monday at the Cleveland Clinic.

Cunningham played 10 seasons and caught more than 200 passes with the Steelers. He was named to their all-time team in 2007 in conjunction with the franchise’s 75th anniversary.

Cunningham was an All-American in the mid-1970s. His seven scoring catches in 1974 set a school record for a tight end that stood for 37 years. Current Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called Cunningham one of the program’s greatest players.

The Steelers drafted him with the 28th pick in 1976. He caught a touchdown pass in Pittsburgh’s victory over Houston in the 1979 AFC title game and had two more receptions in a Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams two weeks later when the Steelers captured their fourth championship in six years.

He retired after the 1985 season and returned to Clemson, where he earned a master’s degree in secondary education and served as a guidance counselor in Westminster, South Carolina.

Dupree option picked up

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have exercised the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

The Steelers made the announcement on Monday, three days before the start of the draft. The move will keep the 24-year-old Dupree under contract for the 2019 season.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert says, “We’re excited about where Bud can be in these next two years and we had no hesitation in making that move when we did it.”

Pittsburgh selected Dupree with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. Dupree has increased his sack total in each of his three seasons, going from 4 in 2015 to 4.5 in 2016 to 6 in 2017 as part of a defense that set a franchise record and led the NFL with 56 sacks last season.

The decision to pick up Dupree’s option will likely have a minimal impact on Pittsburgh’s draft plans. The Steelers need help at inside linebacker, with Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier ruled out for the 2018 season while recovering from spinal stabilization surgery.

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