The 2019 season was quite unlike any other, at least in recent years, for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Surely, there were times in the team’s past in which they relied upon the defense to win games. But when they were actually successful and winning those games, they at least had a strong presence in the backfield. Injuries sapped any chance of that happening this last season.
So it was certainly an interesting introduction for Devin Bush as a rookie starter in this unit, wherein after just six quarters into the season, so much of the responsibility of the Steelers’ success suddenly fell on his side of the ball. Overall, they held up about as well as they could be expected to, but it proved to be too much.
Not for a lack of trying, though, or a lack of confidence. In fact, as Bush said yesterday on Speak for Yourself, the defense was extremely confident, and knew exactly what the score was. They knew it was on their shoulders, and they embraced it.
“It was times in the defensive room where we were looking at each other like, ‘yo, you know it’s on us. If we’re gonna win this game, we gotta score. We gotta turn the ball over, we gotta do something’”, he said. “And we go out there and we made it happen. We didn’t excel in the turnovers we had the year before. We was out there wrecking shop. We was just ready to make a play. Every day in practice, we’re like, ‘we’re gonna make that play’”.
Bush made a fair number of plays himself. He intercepted two passes, forced a fumble, and recorded four fumble recoveries, totaling six takeaways. He was on of four defenders to have at least six takeaways, joining T.J. Watt (two interceptions, four fumble recoveries), Minkah Fitzpatrick (five interceptions, two fumble recoveries), and Joe Haden (five interceptions, one fumble recovery).
In addition to his six takeaways, Bush also recorded 109 tackles, comfortably the most by a rookie in team history. He was an alternate for the Pro Bowl, even, leading in fan voting, but ultimately was not elected to participate.
The Steelers gave up second- and third-round picks for the right to move up from 20 to 10 in the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft to draft the Michigan linebacker. While he did come in and make an immediate impact, the expectations for his second year are sky-high.
But the hope is the offense will be able to shoulder a lot more of the load than they managed last season, with Ben Roethlisberger back and healthy. The scary thing is, for opponents anyway, that this defense could still be just as good as they were in 2019.