The Pittsburgh Steelers knew entering the 2019 season that they had to fix their inside linebacker situation, which was too limited after Lawrence Timmons’ departure and Ryan Shazier’s injury. While they liked Vince Williams, they knew they needed an influx of athleticism, which led to them signing Mark Barron in free agency before they knew they would have a shot at Devin Bush in the draft.
They came away with both of them, and they would be the Steelers’ primary starters at the position throughout the season. But Barron was a salary cap cut earlier this offseason. They also lost Tyler Matakevich in free agency. That leaves Williams back in the starting lineup alongside Bush, the only reserves being retained limited to work as special-teamers in Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane.
While Bush believes in his teammates, he’s also not bashful about what he can deliver. Speaking to reporters yesterday, he said he would have no problems taking up as much as the snaps as would be necessary for the team to succeed.
“I have no doubt me and Vince can go out there and control the defense”, he said. Prior to the 2019 season, Williams was a primary starter for the past two seasons, but he saw his playing time cut in less than half last year as more of a run-defense specialist.
“As far as filling in a spot with a linebacker, I’m not a coach or anything. I’ve seen we’ve signed some guys, and that could be a depth issue”, he said. “You never really know until you know. Until we get into practices and camp and stuff like that, you really won’t know for sure”.
Bush was the 10th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the Steelers gave up third first- and second-round picks and 2020 third-round pick to draft up from 20 with the Denver Broncos to get him. According to reports, the Broncos were prepared to draft him themselves, his name already written down on a card, had the Steelers not phoned to confirm the trade.
He would go on to play in all 16 games, starting 15, though his playing time varied. He is the first rookie in Steelers history to record 100 or more tackles, leading the team with 109, recording a sack, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries. Though not confirmed, I believe he was a second-alternate for the Pro Bowl behind Tremaine Edmunds.
On his rookie season, he recalled, “I don’t think it was a big load. I was able to handle it last year, and now I know what I’m stepping into, and I can handle the whole season”. He also said that rookies coming in this year through a ‘virtual’ offseason are in for a rude awakening when they have to go through a full in-person offseason next year.