Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Devin Bush
Stock Value: Up
He might not have made the Pro Bowl or received any post-season accolades, but there is nothing to sneeze at as far as the quality of Devin Bush’s rookie season goes. The 10th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Steelers, he was an immediate starter and put up the statistics that go along with it.
In fact, he was the first rookie in franchise history to post 100 or more tackles, finishing with 109, which was the most on the team, just ahead of Terrell Edmunds’ 105 tackles. He also had nine tackles for loss among those numbers, plus a sack.
But where he really separated himself from most other rookies was his involvement in splash plays, seven of them to be specific. He recorded two interceptions in addition to forcing a fumble, and he also recovered four fumbles, one of which he returned for a defensive touchdown. He had an interception and a fumble returned for a score in Week Six, for which he was named the Defensive Player of the Week.
After that Week Six game came the Steelers’ bye week, and with it an adjustment in how the team was using him, with Mark Barron seeing an increase in his playing time, so they ate a bit into Bush’s snaps as well as his statistics. That dip did reverse course as the season dragged on, however.
Perhaps the statistic I was most encouraged by was the fact that he had five tackles for loss over the course of his final five games. You could see the progression of his diagnostic speed over the course of the year, showing that he was getting to the spot of the ball more quickly because he was reading the play faster.
Still just 21 years old, there is every reason in the world to believe that Bush is fully capable of turning into a star inside linebacker in 2020, the sort of player who consistently makes Pro Bowls. I do think his rookie numbers were a bit better than his actual performance, but his play will quickly catch up to that standard, the way Ryan Shazier did in his second year in 2015.