Devin Bush leads all rookies in tackles so far through the first two games of the 2019 season. So what? That doesn’t mean the Pittsburgh Steelers starting inside linebacker has necessarily been playing well. In fact, he was responsible for surrendering two touchdowns on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, one against man coverage, one in zone. A deeper look at the tape shows a number of other negative snaps, as well.
That shouldn’t be overly alarming, at least relative to his long-term prospects. Some struggles in the first two meaningful games of his professional career are not exactly going to define him. But the Steelers do need better from him this Sunday on the west coast as they are hosted by the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers.
Many have wondered if they are asking too much of Bush so early in his career. Bush doesn’t think so. “They wouldn’t put anything on my plate they think I wouldn’t be able to handle”, he told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday. “I don’t think they’re trying to hold me back too much or give me too much at one time. There’s like a happy balance”.
Generally speaking, the more a rookie plays now, the more that will pay off later in his rookie season and into next year. You can take some growing pains. Frankly, following Ben Roethlisberger’s year-ending injury, it makes all the more sense to continue with the plan.
While you don’t want to see him struggle so much to the point that he becomes discouraged, a little bit of adversity through failure is not a bad thing, especially for a young player as mentally tough as Bush appears to be, a second-generation first-round draft pick who has been trained to be a football player practically since birth.
The Steelers paid a hefty price to bring him in back in April. Knowing that they had no chance to get him sitting at 20 in the first round, they traded with the Denver Broncos for their 10th-overall pick, sending along their own first, their second-round pick, and their selection in the third round in 2020. It has been reported that Denver was going to go forward with their intentions of drafting Bush themselves before the Steelers phoned them to confirm they were a go on the trade terms.
So a lot is at stake relative to his ability to be a success. But with such a monumental acquisition, the view has to be a long-term one, and the potential growing pains have to be accepted. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem, at least in my observation, that too many have been overly down on him through two weeks, and of course, they shouldn’t be. Patience is called for.
Not that they won’t work with him and try to make things easier. He’s still adjusting to the speed of the game and the minutiae of regular season-level film study, but beyond that, they can simplify the defense, which he is already being asked to call (he wore the green dot Sunday, and his assignments within it, to put him in better positions to help the team out now.