While he leads all rookies in tackle, the first two games of Devin Bush’s career haven’t necessarily been the stuff of legend, stories you’ll tell to your grandchildren when recalling the great linebackers in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s given up touchdowns. He’s missed plays. He’s been put on his ass a time or two. He’s made some plays, to be sure, but it’s fair to say it hasn’t been great.
Now he’s also adjusting to being the signal-caller on a full-time basis as of Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers coaching staff is putting a lot on the plate of their first-round rookie, for whom they traded up, in doing so giving up second- and third-round picks. But they’re confident in him and where he’s heading.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about where Bush is right now and if the injury to Vince Williams will place even more of a burden on him. “Well, he’s playing right now, and he’s gonna keep playing for us”, he said. He has played over 110 snaps over the first two games despite not explicitly yet having been an every-down player.
“He’s a young guy. He’s learning”, he veteran defensive coordinator said of the youngest player on the Steelers’ roster. “But it’s not like it’s above his head. It’s not. He can do this. He’ll get better and better as the season goes along”.
It won’t get easier this week. After giving up two touchdowns and an embarrassing loss being blocked by Seahawks tight end Will Dissly on Sunday, he will be facing George Kittle in Week Three. Kittle reached 2000 receiving yards for his career this past week, doing so faster than did Rob Gronkowski. And he’ll put you on your backside as quickly and powerfully as any other tight end in the game right now. But that’s not the concern. It’s simple the speed of the game.
“It’s always tough. The game in the NFL is a lot faster than it is in college. It don’t matter where you played in college”, Butler said about the rookie struggle to adjust to NFL-level pace. “You gotta think faster, you gotta play faster. There’s a lot of things that happen faster that he’s gotta adjust to. He will adjust to that, because he’s got the speed to do it, and it’s got the intellect to do it, too. We expect him to get better and better”.
The Steelers have worked diligently to upgrade their speed defensively, particularly on the second and third levels, nowhere more evident than in the drafting of Bush and the signing of Mark Barron in free agency at the inside linebacker position.
But playing fast isn’t just about how quickly you can run. It’s also about your processing speed. That’s where Bush is still trying to catch up with his peers. He will, in time, week by week. In the meantime, his coaches must be patient.