Over the end of the season, I wrote and tweeted plenty about Devin Bush. A successful rookie year by most metrics, I imagine virtually every Steelers’ fan would agree, but what was most impressive was his ability to learn and progress as the season rolled along. Especially late in the year when it’s common for rookies to hit the wall and fatigue, physically and mentally.
So wanted to post that improvement into one post today. We’ll look at some of his run game/fit struggles and how he worked on those problems over the last couple weeks to end 2019 on a high note, even if the team as a whole didn’t.
The second Cleveland game was a tough one for Bush. His run defense was shaky and he simply wasn’t doing his jobs, overrunning his gap to create cutback lanes for the QB. Here, Bush is responsible for the backside A gap. But he is too aggressive reading Nick Chubb laterally and loses his gap.
Chubb sees it and cuts back right into Bush’s run fit, the backside A gap, and hits the hole for a nine yard gain. Bush is athletic enough to change direction and make the tackle but if he does his job, the defensive line builds its fence and doesn’t give the back a bubble (gap in the defense) to hit.
Similar issue here. Bush is reading the pulling action by WR Jarvis Landry. He flows down the line but then gets tunnel vision, watching only Landry, not the action of the back. Causes him to turn his shoulders, get parallel to the LOS instead of being square to it, and not recognizing the fact Chubb has cut it back, right to where Bush was. Another chunk run.
So we can agree that was terrible. Now it’s about showing improvement. That’s what Bush did. Two weeks later, he gets the same pulling action by this Buffalo Bills’ WR. He scrapes over, staying square, keeping his eyes on the back, and fills the lane to tackle Devin Singletary. Fills the lane, makes the stop.
Similar two weeks later versus the Ravens. Keying the fullback, follows him across the formation, but doesn’t overrun it. Stays square, keeps his eyes on the ball/back, and fills his gap. Finishes by making the tackle.
By the way, I know they’re probably reading different keys, but check out the ground Bush covers compared to Vince Williams. Bush gets his feet moving on the snap whereas Williams is a little slow to slide (I think he’s reading the mesh point though, which does take more time to develop and process). Bush basically ends up on top of Williams before settling into his run fit. Williams was the edge/force defender on the play with Bud Dupree executing the “mesh charge” and attacking Robert Griffin III.
Bush’s rookie year wasn’t without faults. He had to learn how to play matchup zone, identifying route concepts and protecting the seam. Like we highlighted here, there were also run defense problems. But what is most encouraging is his ability to not make those mistakes twice, that’s something Mike Tomlin always preaches (“make a new mistake,” meaning, don’t screw up the same thing over and over) which highlights his football IQ and ability to learn and be taught.
Given that, there’s every reason to expect Bush to take over a full-time role in 2020 as the team’s every down linebacker. And reason to believe he’ll make that classic sophomore jump this organization expects from its second-year players.