The Pittsburgh Steelers have high expectations for Devin Bush in his second season. Sky-high, perhaps. There wouldn’t be any other way to approach a player for whom you traded second- and third-round draft picks for the right to move up 10 spots in the first round specifically to take him.
As a rookie, the young Michigan product made team history when he led the Steelers with 108 tackles. No other rookie in franchise history had reached the triple-digit mark. In addition to his healthy tackle production, he produced one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also had several passes defensed.
By the end of the fan voting for the Pro Bowl, he was leading at his position, though he ultimately did not end up in the Pro Bowl. It’s likely that he did not even finish as the first alternate, because Tremaine Edmunds wound up as a Pro Bowler.
But that was last year. He was just getting his feet wet. This is his second season, and he should hit the ground running, ready to be the player the Steelers expected him to be. Head coach Mike Tomlin is certainly on board with that idea, as he talked about during his recent appearance on Steelers Nation Unite.
“We took Devin Bush a year ago, and as a 20-year-old, he logged a bunch of snaps for us, and we feel good about the overall trajectory of his play”, he said, in responding to a question about how they are addressing the inside linebacker position after Ryan Shazier’s injury.
“Sometimes when you feel like you have a need, it doesn’t necessarily mean going out and getting a new component. It’s about the improvement of the components that you have”, Tomlin continued. “We’re excited about him taking a significant step between year one and year two as a quality inside linebacker for us, being an all-situations type player, to be the type of guy to play to a Pro Bowl-caliber level in the way that Ryan Shazier did”.
Shazier, like Bush, was the team’s first-round pick, back in 2014. Like Bush, he was immediately plugged into the starting lineup, but injuries kept slowing him down. It was his by 2015, however, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017, becoming one of the top coverage linebackers, before suffering a devastating on-field injury that has, for all intents and purposes, ended his professional playing career in the NFL.
The drafting of Bush—and the prior signing of Mark Barron in free agency—was a direct reflection of the organization’s realization that they failed to properly address the loss of Shazier the previous year. So far, so good, but the young man still has a long way to go to live up to that legacy, especially above the neck.