Ryan Shazier started calling the defense from his first practice during rookie minicamp in 2014. A short time later, he would be installed into the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in his first practice with the full team.
Is Devin Bush following an identical trajectory? It’s certainly possible. In Shazier’s case, there was no real incumbent starter, as Larry Foote was injured the year before and was released prior to the 2014 NFL Draft. Vince Williams played in his stead, but the team primarily ran a dime defense with just Lawrence Timmons on the field.
Likewise, there is no incumbent starter ahead of Bush, with Jon Bostic having been released, and even L.J. Fort signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He will have to compete with free agent signing Mark Barron, but with both of them new to the team, it’s an easier mountain to climb.
And he started his trek, as Shazier did, by calling the defense yesterday, even though he had just gotten the playbook. He told reporters that while the language the Steelers use is something he has to learn, the concepts were not foreign.
When asked what he was calling out there if he was just learning the defense, he said, “the defense. You’ve just got to jump in your playbook and be confident”. He was asked what he felt he did well, and he said, “just getting out there and being vocal as much as I could. Whether I was right or wrong, just being vocal and just trust what I see”.
The Steelers have not have a fixed signal-caller that they can trust as a three-down player since Shazier was injured. They obviously made the trade up to land Bush with the idea in mind that he could be that three-down signal-caller, but it’s not necessarily a role that is readily handed out to a rookie, so if he wants that role, he will have to earn it.
On his first taste of professional practice, he said of his comfort level on the field, “I didn’t feel out of whack. I didn’t feel out of phase. I knew there were going to be some hiccups here and there, but I’m still learning”.
The expediency of his learning curve is most likely going to be the determining factor over whether or not he begins his rookie season as a full-time starter, though doing so won’t necessarily mean that he is going to be calling the defense for the entire unit.
But even if he starts and isn’t calling right away, he will still be a key hub of communication for the unit. One player barks out the commands, but it takes a few players to pass that command off to the entire group, and that’s primarily on the inside linebackers, and usually a safety.