The Pittsburgh Steelers have been fortunate to have had some great linebackers over the course of their history, both inside and outside. They already have one right now on the roster toying with greatness in the early portions of his career in T.J. Watt, who is currently in consideration for the current Defensive Player of the Year Award.
They could have another one on their hands—in fact, they expect to—in Devin Bush, the first-round pick out of Michigan who was a day-one rookie starter for the defense in 2019. While he did not make the Pro Bowl, he did finish the season with over 100 tackles and six takeaways, including two interceptions, with a handful of tackles for loss.
I do get the sense to some degree that some were expecting even more out of him, but the fact of the matter is that his rookie season is about as good as we’ve seen from a Steelers defender for quite a while, going back perhaps to Kendrell Bell.
There were some quality linebackers in the middle in between Bell and Bush, but perhaps none better, when taking everything into consideration, than James Farrior, the mouthpiece of their championship defenses of the 2000s. He certainly qualifies as one of their most underrated defenders, in my estimation.
And it’s who Bush most reminds James Harrison of. Both Bush and Harrison appeared on a Speak for Yourself segment yesterday and the latter was asked to pick somebody that Bush reminded him of. He chose the other half of the ‘James Gang’ that the classic Dick LeBeau defense had
“To be honest with you, he reminds me of Farrior, James Farrior”, he said. “He looks a little like him. Potsie’s a light guy. He’s about 212, 215 by the time the end off the season came, but he came with that thump, and that’s something that he has. He has that thump. He has the speed to get there, and vision. That’s who he reminds me of”.
That wouldn’t be a bad benchmark to set by any means, because Farrior was not just a great player, but a fantastic communicator. His leadership and communicative ability was the nucleus of that championship defense, regardless of the immense talent on the field.
From 2003 to 2010, Farrior averaged close to 120 tackles per season, with eight interceptions and 12 forced fumbles in that span, plus 28 sacks, and one defensive touchdown. He was the sort of player who was capable of functioning in any role, and was even able to evolve as the game progressed to a more pass-oriented approach.
It’s too bad he had to play in the same era as two first-ballot Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, because it often resulted in his being overshadowed and not properly recognized for how great a player he was. Hopefully Bush doesn’t have the same issues showing how great he is to the national stage.