Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Devin Bush
Stock Value: Even
Devin Bush is now 12 games into his rookie season. It has not been a bad year, by any means. He has put up 86 tackles with a sack, two interceptions, four passes defensed, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, one sack, two quarterback hits, and six tackles for loss.
It must be said, however, that his ‘impact plays’ have faded since the early portions of the season, during which he did most of his damage. While his forced fumble did come two weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals, even that come only after he was beaten for a big catch into the red zone by Tyler Boyd, and he had to strip the ball out from behind, a play the receiver shouldn’t have allowed to happen.
Bush’s playing time has trended downward for the past month, as well. Previously, he was logging every snap or very nearly ever snap. Now he is averaging closer to two thirds to three quarters of the snaps, with Mark Barron seeing an increase in his playing time.
By no means am I suggesting that Bush is not playing well, though he does have his share of rookie moments. What I’m saying is that his impact hasn’t been felt nearly as frequently in recent weeks. Since the bye, he has no interceptions, no fumble recoveries, no sacks. He has one forced fumble, one pass defensed, one quarterback hit, and three tackles for loss.
He is still the leading vote-getter in the AFC among inside linebackers, and it should go without saying that he is still, by and large, playing well. He still comes up with a couple of those ‘eraser’ plays per game that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, using his speed and diagnostic prowess to cut what would be a 10-yard run down to a two-yard run.
That’s the true measure of his value from play to play. I think we were spoiled by his early run of splash plays, which was obviously never going to be sustainable in the first place. And he’s still going to be a significant, integral component of the defense this year. I do think we’ve seen him develop about as much as he is going to develop until the offseason, however.