The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Devin Bush be the primary communicator on defense in his second season?
There were many reasons that the Steelers felt Devin Bush was worth the value of a first-, second-, and third-round pick, which was ultimately the price that they paid for him via a trade in 2019 to move up in the first round.
One of those reasons was because they believed in his intelligence as a football mind and how that would translate into his being the central communicator on defense. They worked much of the offseason a year ago force-feeding him these responsibilities, but they let up in the regular season and let him play without the green dot, believing it was too much for him.
Now with a season under his belt, during which he topped 100 tackles and recorded six takeaways, will he be ready to take on that prime communicator role? And how important is it that he does so? It’s ideal to have a middle linebacker who’s on the field for every snap to function in that role, but it’s also not crucial, and other teams make it work through other means.
But ultimately, it is the role that they want for Bush, that they want him to be able to take on, and to own for the next decade-plus, ideally. It may be harder to get into that rhythm without the benefit of the preseason to get your feet wet.