The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t just content to see whether or not their rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush, is capable of calling the defense. They are literally forcing the task upon him with every opportunity, according to his teammates, among them outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
He told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “we’re kind of like making him make the calls so he won’t get lackadaisical with it because he is that guy”. Bush got the full slate of first-team reps yesterday for the first padded practice with Mark Barron being given a veteran’s day off, so that suggests he was calling the defense all day.
“We have to make sure he’s on top of that, and he’s doing a pretty good job with it”, Dupree added, saying that the rookie is “beyond his years”. The 10th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft only turned 21 about a week and a half ago, roughly three months after the Steelers traded up 10 spots to go and get him.
Prior to Barron sitting out yesterday’s practice, the two new linebackers along with veteran Vince Williams had been operating within a three-man rotation with the first-team defense, each pairing combination getting the opportunity to work together at some point as the team tries to figure out which of the two to start.
It’s likely that the team will also be giving Williams some days off going forward, in an effort both to give the two older linebackers rest and to give Bush some time to get complete days in with the first-team defense.
At the outset of training camp, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said of Bush that “he has a lot to learn” and “a lot to prove”. He added that the team intended to afford him additional playing opportunities, provided that his conditioning granted it, “in an effort to accelerate the learning process”.
I don’t think it’s too ambitious to state that the Steelers want to see Bush lock down a starting job as soon as possible. That’s usually the approach when a team gives up three premium draft picks to nab a player.
Still, all three of the team’s top inside linebackers figure to have some kind of role this season. Perhaps, for example, Williams will play on more running downs, while Barron will be used in some nickel, obvious passing situations. He may be used in favor of some situations in which they used the dime last year.
There is no doubt that Bush is envisioned as the nucleus, though. It’s not too much to suggest that he has the talent and potential to be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year when the season is up. It certainly would be nice to see another Steelers player win that.