The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Devin Bush will log more defensive snaps in 2019 than Vince Williams.
Explanation: Vince Williams is the only incumbent starter at inside linebacker on the Steelers’ roster, and he has been in that role for two seasons. With Jon Bostic gone, the Steelers stocked up with Mark Barron in free agency and Bush in the first round. All three have been rotating with the first-team defense as a starting pair has yet to be solidified.
Vince Williams, ideally, is not a three-down player. Devin Bush is. And based on recent history, he is going to start right way. Terrell Edmunds and T.J. Watt did each of the past two years. Ryan Shazier did as well. Jarvis Jones would have started the opener if he didn’t get injured (he started in Week Two).
And Bush is more polished, seasoned, and prepared for the NFL than any of them were when you factor everything in from his playing time to his background. A second-generation player who was the defensive signal-caller at Michigan, and a supreme athlete, it’s easy to predict that he is going to be hard to take off the field.
Williams, in contrast, was already being taken off the field in favor of L.J. Fort by the middle of last season in the dime defense. With Barron also in the mix, there’s a good chance there will be times that two inside linebackers will be on the field, and neither of them will be Williams.
It’s certainly plausible, but it’s equally likely that it simply doesn’t develop that way. While the Steelers sold out to get Bush, they also talked about not wanting to rush their rookies the way that they have had to in recent seasons.
The signing of Barron in free agency was a part of that. with Williams and Barron, two veterans with a lot of playing experience, they don’t need to put everything on Bush’s shoulders. They can give him selective playing time to acclimate him slowly to the NFL.
Bush and Barron could rotate at the Mack spot, perhaps even situationally, while Williams is consistent at the Buck. He could even come off the field and still log more time than Bush if he is rotated or used selectively.