When the Pittsburgh Steelers targeted Devin Bush this offseason, ultimately giving up their first- and second-round picks in 2019 and their third-round pick in 2020 to trade up for him, they saw in him many different things. They saw a great athlete. They saw a playmaker. They saw the person behind them facemask as well. But they also saw a communicator.
And that latter role is going to be a vital part of his story this season, because how well he is able to do that is going to shape how well the defense is able to come together and play as a group. If he fails in that task, it could hurt his playing time as well.
But being the signaler on defense isn’t a role that’s new to Bush. Thanks in large part to the training of his Super Bowl-champion father, it’s long been a part of his identity as a football player not just to know defenses, but to be able to set them as well.
“I think that’s something I’ve always been kind of good at”, he told The Fan after practice yesterday. “I think in college it got even better because I was the main signaler out there. I was the only person signaling. Coming into this defense, communication is everything, just to have those guys around you talking to you, alerting you and doing this and doing that, it makes it that much easier and that much better to communicate and know what you’re doing”.
Bush sat out the team’s preseason game last week after coming out with a strong debut in the first game, recording 10 tackles and a pass defensed that he nearly picked off, despite the play being negated by a penalty.
Now set to line up, perhaps for an extended period of time, with the (nearly) full complement of the starting defense, going up against a starting offense in the Tennessee Titans on the road, it’s going to be an important and interesting test to see how the rookie handles the communication aspects of his role tomorrow night as a prelude to the season.
Being a great inside linebacker doesn’t make you a great communicator. Just ask Lawrence Timmons. Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier both took a bit of time to develop a knack for it. James Farrior was known to say that he was always learning the role even at the end of his career.
One thing I think it’s important to keep in mind for this season is that Bush is still a rookie, and he’s going to look like a rookie at times. Even Darius Leonard a year ago had his rookie moments at times even though he ended up on the All-Pro list.
But the preseason is there to try to get as many of those first hiccups out of the way as possible, and if he’s got them, one can only hope that they come out in Tennessee.