When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field tomorrow night against the Carolina Panthers, don’t expect to see any starters out there on the field. Except, perhaps, Devin Bush, the team’s first-round draft pick, if he indeed opens the regular season as the starter along wide Vince Williams or Mark Barron, a pair of veteran linebackers.
Teams don’t want to play starters in the final preseason game (some don’t want to play certain starters at all anymore in the preseason) because their position on the team is already well-secured, it adds needless risk of injury, and it’s took close to the start of the real season.
Exceptions are made when those starters have never played before, let alone starters, and in Bush’s case, he hasn’t even had a full preseason schedule. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin decided to hold him out of the second preseason game after debuting with 10 tackles because he missed some practice time with a minor injury.
The coach was asked about Bush’s journey as a rookie and refused to distinguish it much from that of any other, on the team or in the past. His work in the preseason doesn’t differ greatly, for example, from that of Derwin Gray, their seventh-round pick, other than when they play.
Just like all those guys. Forget the level of productivity. These guys, their journeys, their careers are at such the beginning stages that they need every opportunity that they can get to prepare to take themselves through that preparation process and go into a stadium and perform. They’ve got a chance to get better. He’s only done it twice. The more times they can do that, that’s just growth and development for them.
That is what Tomlin said of Bush and his current status following yesterday’s practice. He has only played inside of a stadium against NFL-level players two times, ever. He’s not even close to a polished veteran, so he’ll play.
Whom will he play with? I suppose that remains to be seen, but don’t expect many veterans out there. Perhaps either Barron or Williams, if not both, will play due to the competition factor. Terrell Edmunds, as a second-year player, is another who may see the field.
A lot is riding on Bush’s shoulder this year, and for the next decade or so, so the team wants to make sure those shoulders stay healthy. But he also needs to get to work and get into the business of playing football at the professional level, something he’s still participating in via the infancy stages.