Most of the focus on the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers will be rightly placed on one man, that being quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. More than any one player, he holds the key to how well the team can do in 2020, resting upon that surgically repaired elbow that had him looking like Bionic Ben on the sideline for most of the year.
The offense obviously saw major regressions this past season going from Roethlisberger to novice, inexperienced reserves—they literally went from the best red zone offense to the worst—but at the same time, the defense made equally significant progressions, and the team is still hoping for major progress from at least one position in 2020.
That would be at inside linebacker, with 2019 first-round pick Devin Bush making a big jump headed into his second season. Though he played in every game, starting 15, and playing the majority of the snaps on the year, it should go without saying that there is still a lot that he can do to get better. And his teammates see big things for him as well.
During a sit-down interview on the team’s website with Missi Matthews this week, first-team All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt was asked who on his defense he thought could make a big jump and help improve the unit in 2020. He immediately answered back, “Devin”.
“You talk about guys taking that year one to year two jump, and I think he had over 100 something tackles, so that’s probably like my career”, he joked. “He was getting up and down off the ground a lot this year, but just the way that he’s able to fly around, I’m excited for him to take the vocal step on the field next year”.
Of course, it’s not just important for him to play well, and consistently. The Steelers also expect Bush to be the mouthpiece of the defense. They were hoping that he might be able to handle that role on a full-time basis this year, but also understood that that could be asking too much, and so they scaled back his responsibilities over the course of the season.
Still, he would finish the year with over 100 tackles, a forced fumble, four recoveries, and two interceptions, plus a sack. Not a bad rookie season, even if it started out in more promising fashion than it ended up being overall after his numbers levelled off following the bye week.
The Steelers gave up third 2019 second-round pick and their third-round pick in 2020 in order to move up from the 20th spot in the first round to the 10th in order to get Bush. From all accounts, the Denver Broncos, with whom they traded, were going to draft Bush themselves if Pittsburgh didn’t pull the trigger on that trade.
They went up and they got their guy. He had a promising rookie season. 2020 is where that promise has to start meeting reality, where he needs to be not just a star, but a reliable player on every play, both physically and mentally.