One of the most significant storylines of the first half of the 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been the play and the rising performance of rookie first-round draft pick Devin Bush. He leads all rookies and is in the top 10 in the NFL with 52 tackles. He has also recorded two interceptions and has four fumble recoveries, notching a sack on top of the rest.
He is coming off one of his best games so far in his young career, if not his best, finishing with seven tackles, a second interception in as many weeks, and a fumble recovery that he returns for a touchdown. It was enough to earn him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, one that one can assume will not be the last in his career.
All of this has gotten Steelers fans setting their expectations higher for Bush at the start of his career. Could he go to the Pro Bowl? What about earning Defensive Rookie of the Year? Maybe even Defensive MVP?
With a good chunk of the season in the books, many are starting to weigh in on these topics, and Chris Wesseling offered his current candidates in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award for an article on the league’s website.
He made a list of the top 10 defensive rookies so far in the season. Bush was placed third on the list, behind the San Francisco 49ers’ Nick Bosa and Brian Burns of the Carolina Panthers. Both of them are edge defenders who were drafted ahead of Bush. Wesseling writes of the Steelers’ top rookie:
Hyped as a Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite after a standout training camp, Bush struggled out of the gates, especially in pass coverage. Over the past month, though, he’s been as advertised, showing an uncanny nose for the football with four fumbles recovered, a pair of interceptions and a touchdown en route to Week 6 Defensive Player of the Week honors. He leads all rookies in tackles (52) as well as Pro Football Focus’ defensive stops metric (19) for a swarming Steelers defense that seems to increase in intensity with each passing week.
Defensive stops are plays in which a defensive player records a tackle or sack that results in an unsuccessful play for the offense, and if you’ve been reading us for long enough, you should know by know what that entails.
Bush’s fantastic athleticism and range have allowed him to put himself in positions that no Steelers player since Ryan Shazier was injured has been able to do, thus making plays the defense otherwise would not be able to make.
That’s what the front office saw in him that got them to move up in the draft for him, and now that’s what we’re seeing come to life on the field. While he needs to clean up the missed tackles (he had an ugly second half in that respect last week), he is looking the part, and could move up in this ranking as the year goes on.