With a strong crop of players at the top level of the hierarchy coming out of college in 2018, the Pittsburgh Steelers felt good about their chances of landing a starting-caliber rookie inside linebacker in that draft. Boy did they leave the next three days with egg on their face, because they didn’t even get around to drafting a single one of them.
All four of the top names—Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans—were all off the board well before the Steelers picked late in the first round. It was rumored that they tried and failed to trade up for Evans, the last player selected, but the Tennessee Titans traded up with the Baltimore Ravens to get him and, well, the Ravens probably would not have traded with the Steelers under those circumstances.
The experiences of a year ago certainly enlightened the front office’s thinking heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, and this year the consensus was that there were only two inside linebackers who were at the top of the class, both of them Devins: Devin White, and Devin Bush.
The problem was the Steelers were sitting at 20, and they knew by the time of the owners meetings that if they wanted to come away with one of them, they would have to make a move. And so they did, and they ended up drafting Bush with the 10th-overall picks after dealing their 2019 second-rounder and their 2020 third-rounder to the Denver Broncos to move up 10 slots.
The question that many people had though was, if they had their pick of the litter, would they have taken the other Devin? White ended up going to Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the fifth-overall pick in the draft. They would have had to give up a lot more to trade up that high.
According to Bob Labriola, in response to a questioner in the latest Asked and Answered segment, it was, in fact, Bush that they had at the top of their board, which presumably means that if they traded up to five, hypothetically, that is the player they would have taken, and not White.
“The Steelers ended up with the inside linebacker they wanted, with the top inside linebacker on their board, and the only way they were able to come to the conclusion that Devin Bush was the inside linebacker they wanted was by scouting and evaluating all of the players at the position thoroughly”, Labriola wrote.
The careers of White and Bush will be linked because of their draft status and position. Only time will tell who ends up being the better player, and who has the better career. The Steelers believe that they got the man they needed, and are happy with their decision. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the results to roll in.