There are a lot of reasons that the Pittsburgh Steelers felt Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush was a player who was worth trading up for in the first round. That is because there are a lot of things that he, or so they believe, will be able to bring to their football team, both on and off the field.
The question is how soon he will be doing those things, and how much of it he will be doing. We’re still very early in the on-field offseason process, entering the final week of OTAs, but where we’re sitting right now, there are a range of possibilities. He could be a day-one starter and play every snap. He might not start any games.
That will really depend on how well he can develop as a communicator, something that defensive coordinator Keith Butler talked about recently while sitting down for an interview with Missi Matthews for the Steelers’ website.
“He’s a smart football player. He knows the game”, he said on Bush. “He’s still got a lot to learn in terms of being a rookie and sounding off and doing the things that we’re going to ask him to do in terms of communication. That’s gonna come to him, but right now he’s just learning it”.
Though he drew early praise for his ability to call and to vocalize the defense during rookie minicamp, even expressing satisfaction himself in that regard even though he thought he may have been calling the wrong plays, the veterans have had a different opinion.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward already joked on the first day of OTAs that the older players were getting on him, saying that he needs to add some bass to his voice. Butler essentially echoed the spirit of that critique.
“He’s a little bit quieter than he needs to be. He needs to be what I call a loudmouth, where everybody can hear you”, he said. “Everybody’s got to hear you. And you’ve got to have a couple of those guys on your defense to make sure you implement the defense that you want to be in based off the personnel we see that the offense gives us. That part of it he’s certainly capable of doing. It’s just a matter of him getting comfortable with what we’re going to ask him to do”.
Of course he’s about nine practices into his NFL career, so it shouldn’t exactly be surprising if he’s not out there barking out the calls the way that James Farrior did. And even Farrior would be the first to tell you that he was still learning how to do that at the end of his career. It’s not an easy assignment by any means.