The Pittsburgh Steelers understood with their bold trade up in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft that it was imperative they get a dynamic playmaker, given the resources that they gave up to get Devin Bush. They also understood that he didn’t necessarily have to set the world on fire in his first season.
And at least for the fine folks over at Pro Football Focus, who are universally admired for their flawless entries into the analytical world of football, he didn’t. The site recently posted a list of the top fifty rookies of 2019, and…Bush wasn’t one of them.
On the year, Bush played in 16 games, starting 15, compiling 109 tackles, with nine for a loss. He recorded one sack with two quarterback hits, in addition to intercepting two passes, defensing four, forcing a fumble, and recovering four more. He was named Defensive Player of the Week after recording an interception and a fumble returned for a touchdown in Week Six against the Los Angeles Chargers.
But in truth, Bush didn’t have a lot of big, impactful ‘splash’ plays after that, with just one forced fumble. His play leveled off some, and he also lost playing time, but that’s not to say he didn’t show significant and meaningful growth thereafter, which we’ve taken a look at here and there. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t going to be one of the top inside linebackers in football in 2020.
The Steelers did see one rookie make PFF’s list, however, and that would be their second selection, wide receiver Diontae Johnson, the 66th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Toledo product led the Steelers with 59 receptions and five receiving touchdowns, producing 680 receiving yards on top of that, along with an 85-yard punt return touchdown. He ranked 29th on their list. Anthony Treash wrote:
Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson climbed up the ranks over the last four weeks of the season. From Week 14-17, Johnson’s 82.3 PFF grade ranked sixth among wideouts, and his 11 broken tackles were four more than any other receiver. As a result, he’s made a strong case to be the Steelers’ No. 2 option behind JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Over the final four weeks of the season, Johnson caught 23 passes on 31 targets, for 257 yards and two touchdowns. He also had the punt return touchdown in that span, though he also fumbled twice, losing one of them. His fumbles and general ball security is one thing he’ll have to clean up heading into year two.