Who says Kentucky basketball has to grab all the headlines?

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted versatile edge rusher Alvin “Bud” Dupree at No. 22 overall on Thursday night. The pick ended an 11-year first-round drought for the Wildcats, the longest such streak in the SEC.

Dupree became the third pass rusher drafted in ’15, behind only Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. and Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Fowler and Dupree finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in the SEC in sacks last season, an indication about how deep the conference’s group of pass rushers was in ’14.

His good, not great, pass rush production probably kept him from getting selected at No. 8 overall, where the Atlanta Falcons bypassed him in favor of Beasley. A few other teams — notably, the Houston Texans at No. 16 and Cleveland Browns at No. 19 — also could’ve taken Dupree based on their needs, but he slipped to the final third of the NFL draft.

Pass rush was one of Pittsburgh’s biggest needs entering the draft, but the Steelers couldn’t have counted on a player of Dupree’s caliber still being available at No. 22. Cameron Heyward and Jason Worlids tied for the Steelers lead with, ironically, 7.5 sacks in ’14, the same total as Dupree recorded at UK.

Dupree began and ended his senior season at Kentucky as the SEC’s active leader in career sacks. He’s now Kentucky’s highest draft selection since the New York Jets took defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson at No. 4 overall in 2003.

The Steelers made Dupree the 16th first-round pick in school history and the third in 30 years Thursday. The news closes the book on a storied college career in Lexington that began when UK recruited Dupree as a tight end from tiny Irwinton, Ga.

The star defensive end registered 23.5 sacks as a Wildcat, playing both defensive end and standing outside linebacker, which helped his draft stock due to the prominence of 3-4 defensive schemes in the NFL.

Dupree’s incredible pre-draft workouts also made him a household name. He measured out at 6-foot-4 and 269 pounds, but still ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February, where he also posted a 42-inch vertical leap. Those numbers caught the attention of NFL scouts during the pre-draft process, presumably making them re-watch his game video as he shot up mock draft projections.

Dupree’s career took off in 2013 when UK brought defensive-minded Mark Stoops to the Bluegrass as head football coach. In two years working with Stoops, who joined Dupree at the draft in Chicago, Dupree logged 14.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and a pick-six to put away South Carolina a year ago.

Dupree is the third UK player taken in the first two rounds of the draft since the turn of the century, joining Robertson and Randall Cobb (No. 64 overall in 2011).

NFL teams ask outside linebackers to focus on three primary responsibilities: rush the passer, seal the edge against the run and drop into coverage. Dupree perhaps is the most adept player in this draft, if not in years, at the latter.

I wrote this on Dupree a few weeks ago when previewing the SEC’s defensive ends in the draft:

A plus run-stopper as a potential NFL outside linebacker, and one of the most polished coverage guys either dropping into zone or running man-to-man with a tight end or running back, Dupree’s biggest weakness is as a pass rusher.

He did post 7.5 sacks in 2014, but given his outstanding size/speed combination, that number should’ve been a lot higher. A good NFL coach may be able to train him, but it will take time, as Dupree fits the “raw” buzzword as a pass rusher and doesn’t have many technical skills — things like converting speed to power, beating an offensive tackle who moves his feet fast enough to cut him off and taking advantage of leverage.

That’s a slight knock on Dupree, at least as a first-round prospect, considering how many outstanding pass rushers are available in this draft. But if a team feels it can harness his physical abilities there, Dupree could become a very good NFL outside linebacker in two or three years. His versatility and potential may be too much for some team to pass up in the first round.

Covering tight ends and running backs on routes is becoming an ever-more-valuable skill, and if Dupree rounds out his overall game in the next two or three seasons, he could become one of the better starters in the NFL at the position.

SDS writer Ethan Levine contributed to this story.