Though his playing time had been ticked down just a bit over the course of the week prior to last, Devin Bush remains a fixture and a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. His dynamic playmaking may have trickled in recent weeks—he hasn’t produced or forced a turnover since before the bye week, and only has two tackles for loss and one pass defensed since then—but he is still the steady contributor the team expected him to be, with that game-changing speed that allows him to make plays others can’t.
Make no mistake, there is no disappointment in Bush, nor his progression as a rookie, no matter the circumstances week to week. In fact, defensive coordinator Keith Butler paid him a high compliment while discussing his most recent (of many) first-round picks.
“He’s a James Farrior type”, he told reporters this past week, via transcript. James Farrior was the heart and soul, the nucleus, of the Steelers’ championship defenses of the 2000s, while Butler was the linebackers coach. Though he was often overlooked in favor of the likes of Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, Farrior stirred the drink for Super Bowl teams.
Now, one of Farrior’s most essential traits was his detailed knowledge of the defense and the assignments of all of his teammates, as well as his ability to clearly and concisely communicate. Those are the areas in which Bush is still growing
“He just has to know what he is looking at now. And he is learning that”, Butler said. “He has good closing speed, so does Minkah. You watch him to see how he closes on people, too, it is the same thing. For us, I have said this before, it might be one of the fastest teams that I have coached and have been a part of coaching. We have several guys like that that can move pretty good”.
There’s no question that Bush’s speed has made a substantial difference to this defensive unit. Even when he’s not making the tackles because of it, he is cutting off angles that allow others to flow to the ball and make the positive play for the unit.
Butler said in a previous response that Bush was playing a bit less in the past two games for nothing that he had done, but because they wanted to be able to get Mark Barron on the field more in coverage. They started employing their dime defense again during that time, and Barron was the sole inside linebacker for those snaps.
Will we see that continue, even after a long week, or will Bush get back to hovering around 100 percent of the snaps, as he had frequently been seeing as the season has progressed?