Throughout the season following each game I will be taking a look at the rookies and how they fared each week. This will consist of thoughts such as the positive and negatives from that game, areas to watch or work on and clips to support what I’m sharing. Hopefully, this will shed some insight on some things you may or may not have seen.
Regular Season Week 15
Devin Bush/ILB (1ST) – The Steelers only dressed 4 defensive linemen so Bush got an uptick in playing time putting him on the field for 83% of the defensive snaps. Playing against a running team, Bush got to play more read and react, downhill defense. He was hitting the holes quick, taking on lead blockers and came away with two tackled for a loss. He almost had a third on the play where Frank Gore was going to throw the ball.
In the passing game he was often tasked with handling the running back out of the backfield and did it well. He wasn’t targeted in the game and had a screen sniffed out that was incomplete. There was one time in coverage where he followed the tight end to the flat and Steven Nelson also took that route leaving a Buffalo WR to be open on a curl. A solid game overall for Devin as he closes in on one hundred tackles.
Here is one of Bushes tackles for a loss. Love seeing him diagnosing and reacting downhill like this.
The Steelers were lucky this was a hand off. Bush and Nelson cover the same guy leaving John Brown all alone.
Diontae Johnson/WR (3RD) – Johnson was one of three receivers with 5 catches in the game. He showed good effort coming back to his second target to convert a third down. As a punt returner he had 2 returns with one going for 13 and him making the decision to get out of bounds. He had a big 29 yard gain at the beginning of Q3 that helped on the scoring drive.
I didn’t like his effort on the first pass. It was a quick In route where Hodges made a bad throw too far out in front and he made a minimal effort to get his hand out there. He fumble twice on consecutive touches; the botched wildcat play in the second quarter and then on his first reception in the third. That’s 5 fumbles on the year for him. His last two punts were sketchy bobbling one and catching the other over the shoulder. Lately, he’s been like a box of chocolates.
Justin Layne/DB (3RD) – I think Layne has found a full time gig as a gunner. He’s consistently beating his man downfield one on one. He made a nice move to keep his balance while splitting a double team block on Jordan Berry’s bad punt. He’s grown into this role and is looking good. Now he needs to get some tackles.
Benny Snell, Jr/RB (4TH) – The return of James Conner meant the disappearance of Snell. He received just 2 offensive snaps with both coming in 13/jumbo personnel. The first came against an eight man box and the second against a nine man box limiting the possibility of success. It could be a case of too many mouths to feed in the backfield but after the success he has had I thought we’d see him a little more.
Zach Gentry/TE (5TH) – Gentry got to suit up for the first time since week 6 and didn’t look too bad. He received 14 snaps and did a solid job as a blocker from and inline alignment and on the wing. He played physical to the whistle. He also collected his first NFL catch, a little delay route over the middle that went for 4 yards and converted a first down. Congratulation, Zach.
This play in 13 personnel isn’t successful but I like the finish by Gentry. He’s the Y on the far side and will play to the whistle taking the LB to the ground.
Devlin Hodges/QB (UDFA) – Rookies are going to rookie and Hodges rookied. He didn’t look good right from the start. His first pass was too far inside to Johnson and his accuracy never looked great. His best drive was the start of Q3 where the Steelers staff made some adjustments at halftime and came out with a quicker passing game. He looked more in rhythm and was able to lead them to a score. He was able to connect on a couple deep balls to James Washington but I’d like to see him air it out a little more. Washington had to slow up on the receptions, get it out in front, Duck.
Four interceptions are obviously never good but I’m going to give him a pass on the first one. Washington made a move to the outside and then cut back in on the deep route. Hodges through it to the outside and if Washington had stayed there it might have been different. The other three were not good. Inaccurate on an Out route to Johnson and the last two weren’t good decisions. He also fumbled while being sacked. He was sacked 4 times and it could have been more showing good mobility to escape a few times. Let’s hope it was a glitch in the matrix and next week will be better. And yes he should be the starter next week.
Kerrith Whyte/RB (7TH CHI) – Whyte was also limited in the crowded backfield gaining 5 yards on two carries. I like his decisiveness and he hits the hole quickly but I think 10 pounds of muscle would benefit him. The offense only rushed the ball 14 times in a one score game. I think he’s shown enough to get more touches. Whoever controls the rotation needs to be better next week.
On his three kick returns he only averaged 21 yards but was able to get out to 28, 31 and 24. That’s much better than we were seeing earlier in the year.
Inactive for Week 11 – Isaiah Buggs/DL (6TH), Tuzar Skipper/OLB (UDFA)
Practice Squad – Derwin Gray/OG (7TH), Alexander Myres/CB (UDFA)
Reserve/Injured – Ulysses Gilbert III/ILB (6TH) – Back