The 2020 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2019 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work from.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Robert Spillane and Tevin Jones because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with 10 selections, including two in the third round and three in the sixth, but ended up trading their second-round pick to move up in the first round. They received additional third- and fifth-round picks for trading Antonio Brown, a sixth for Marcus Gilbert, and the other sixth was part of the Ryan Switzer trade the year before.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Devin Bush
Draft Status: First Round (10th overall)
Starts: 15 (16 games)
For the first time since 2006, the Steelers traded up in the first round of the draft, this time to get Devin Bush. They traded up to 10 all the way from 20th, and it cost them their second-round pick, in addition to their third-round pick for this draft.
Was it worth it? Well, he became an instant starter and played nearly 900 snaps. He led the team in tackles with over 100, the first rookie in team history to reach that number. He also intercepted two passes, forced one fumble, and recovered four more, thus recording six takeaways as a rookie. He returned one of those fumbles for a touchdown in Week Six, during which he also intercepted a pass, and was named the Defensive Player of the Week for that game.
Though he was an instant player, he was not without his growing pains, and after the bye week, the Steelers did start to scale back his playing time here and there, giving more opportunities to Mark Barron.
One area in which he will have to improve going into his second season is working on his coverage within a zone scheme. While he is an able defender when he is allowed to play man-to-man against a tight end or running back, he is still adjusting to working without a full-field coverage concept.
Another thing the Steelers are anticipating seeing in 2020 is Bush being able to wear the green dot, meaning he will be the defender on the field with the speaker in his helmet through which the defensive play calls are relayed. He will be responsible for setting the defense, which is traditional the inside linebacker’s role in most defenses.