Back in February, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was very clear in saying that the organization failed to appropriately replace Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ryan Shazier on the field in 2018, to which point he cited the fact that the team failed to reach the postseason.
The Steelers signed Jon Bostic in free agency to a two-year, $4 million contract, but after failing to trade up for one of the top inside linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft, they ignored the position altogether, heading into the season with Bostic and Tyler Matakevich in competition to start next to Vince Williams. L.J. Fort ended up playing a key role instead.
So they had added motivation to solve the issues in the middle of the field this offseason. They signed Mark Barron in free agency to a two-year, $12 million contract, and earlier tonight, they traded up 10 spots in the first round, giving up their second-round pick this year and their natural third-round pick next year, to bring in Michigan’s Devin Bush.
Bush is a supreme athlete like Shazier (just look at the numbers, included below), even if he didn’t have the same college numbers, but both of them came into the NFL with better than average coverage skills. Understandably, he has been and is going to be frequently compared and contrasted to Shazier, who remains a member of the organization, but the only player Bush is looking to play like is himself.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) April 23, 2019
Immediately following his selection, as he held a conference call with the media, Bush was asked about Shazier, starting with whether or not the Steelers talked to him during the pre-draft process about the former Pro Bowler. He said they did not.
The questions continued, until he was asked about what he thought of the challenge of filling the position vacancy. “I think Ryan Shazier was a great player, still is and I hope to see him soon”, he said. “I wish all the best to Ryan Shazier with his recovery and I know he’s going to do well. I know he has the heart to and has the will to—he will be back. I’m just ready to be Devin Bush. I’m not trying to compare myself to Ryan Shazier or anybody else. I’m going to come in and be Devin Bush”.
I think it would be hard to answer the question better than that. Obviously it would be foolish of him to say he’s going to come in and be the next Ryan Shazier, who remains very much a beloved member of the organization whom he surely will get to know very well. Adding his belief that he will make it back was a nice touch as well.
But he’s right, in particular, about the need for the Steelers’ Devin Bush to be Devin Bush, first and foremost. Bush being himself should be enough to provide a significant upgrade to this defense, which is obviously exactly what the team is expecting considering the move that they were willing to make to go up and get him.