In addition to trading up in this year’s draft to select former Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush 10th overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers also drafted another inside linebacker in the sixth-round in the form of Ulysees Gilbert out of Akron. With the Steelers OTAs now over with and with two days of their mandatory minicamp now in the books, inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky talked on Wednesday about how those two drafted rookie inside linebackers are progressing with the start of training camp now just a little more than five weeks away.
First, Olsavsky, who has coached inside linebackers for the Steelers since 2015, was asked about Bush’s progress so far. In fact, the question was strangely worded around a notion that fans of the team have a ‘big concern’ about the rookie first-round draft pick.
“I think concern is the wrong word, but he’s doing good,” Olsavsky said. “You know, I mean, you know his father played, he’s been around football. He loves the game. And so it’s a joy to coach him. He’s very talented athletically, you know, and like I said, he likes to hit people and he knows what the game’s about. So, I’m real happy to have him.”
Bush has reportedly been seeing a lot of time with the Steelers first-team defense throughout the offseason practices and that resulted in Olsavsky being asked on Wednesday if that means the rookie linebacker should be considered a bonafide first-teamer moving forward.
“We have three guys on the first team, Olsavsky said. “So, Vince [Williams], Mark [Barron] and Devin are all getting reps.”
Olsavsky went on to also confirm that part of Bush’s first offseason in the NFL has consisted of him making sure he learns the play-calling aspect of the inside linebacker position as quickly as possible as he also continues to master the defensive scheme and his duties within it.
“Yeah, you know, we’re teaching him our defense and that’s what that guy does,” Olsavsky said. “That defensive quarterback, you know, on the field, they’ve got to change stuff when the other team’s quarterback changes stuff. So, that’s what we envision him doing. That’s why you drafted.him.”
Olsavsky was then asked to comment on the progress of the other drafted inside linebacker this year, Gilbert, and the linebackers coach started with a quick assessment of him.
“Ulysses is young, okay? You know played at a MAC school, but very talented,” Olsavsky said. “Loves the game, you know, and is smart. Is getting the defense.
While there’s been a lot of talk from Steelers teammates and coaches about Bush so far this offseason, the same can’t really be said about Gilbert, who In the 51 total games that he played at Akron, registered 358 total tackles of which 28.5 resulted in lost yardage with 9.5 of those being sacks. Gilbert also intercepted 3 passes during his college career, forced 2 fumbles, and had 8 total pass breakups.
After not being invited to this year’s scouting combine, Gilbert measured in at his pro day 6001, 224-pounds with 31 3/4-inch arms and 9 3/4-inch hands. He reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in 4.51-seconds, posted a vertical jump of 39 1/2-inches to go along with a 10’06” broad jump.
Obviously, Bush is guaranteed a roster spot this year but the same can’t be said right now about Gilbert as he will likely have to win a spot on the 53 by being a superior special teams player during training camp and the preseason. At worst, Gilbert will start his rookie season on the Steelers practice squad and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that should it ultimately work out that way.
As for Bush, Olsavsky isn’t the only Steelers defensive coach that’s happy the team traded up to draft him a few months ago.
“I’m glad we got him,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said on Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I hope we can use him, and he has success. I think he will, but who knows? You don’t know until they start playing. They all look good in shorts. It matters when they get those pads on. We’ll find out, because … the two things I can’t teach them are being aggressive, and the other is speed. He’s got natural speed in terms of hitting. That’s something his mother and daddy gave him, so I’ll be interested to see what kind of hitter he is.”
Butler, Olsavsky and the rest of us now have roughly five more weeks until we find out what kind of hitter Bush is as a member of the Steelers as that’s when the team will report to Latrobe for the start of their annual training camp.