One of the least shocking things in the football world is players getting more comfortable in their second seasons, especially after getting a significant amount of playing time as rookies. Still, it fails to happen often enough that it remains worth noting when we do hear from the second-year players about the progress that they make, and that goes doubly for key starters, like Devin Bush.
Selected 10th-overall last year when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up 10 spots to get him, the Michigan product was essentially a wall-to-wall full-time starter, logging about 900 defensive snaps and leading the team with 109 tackles. He also recorded six takeaways, including four fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
For as solid as his play generally was, he still had weaknesses in his game, some of which can be rectified simply by being more comfortable with what he is expected to do on the field and just generally getting settled down into the professional level, and seeing everything for a second time.
“I’m a lot more comfortable than last year”, Bush told reporters at the end of last week. “Just watching myself just from last season and critiquing myself during the offseason, I’ve definitely picked up the playbook a lot more easier. I’m a lot more comfortable with who I’m playing with and what scheme I’m playing with. So, I mean, I have a good foundation that I laid down last year to build off of. So, I mean, it’s going to be a lot easier for me this year”.
Arguably the most evident weakness that he had last season was his being uncomfortable in playing within a zone coverage scheme. While he performed at a pretty high level when asked to play man, learning to play in zone is a transition that a lot of college players struggle with if they weren’t asked to do it much.
Continued experience and growth will go a long way toward helping that. One issue that won’t necessarily get better simply with time is tackling efficiency. This is something that Bush will have to clean up, and is less of a guarantee, but we have seen players improve over time here, like Stephon Tuitt, for example.
“Obviously it’s a lot better than last year”, Bush said about his comfort level in training camp. “Last year it was my first year and it was just getting caught up to speed, with just everything changing around me, and leading into year two, everything’s slowed down a lot more”.
Bush, who turned 22 a month ago, is a player that the Steelers envision is being one of their core leaders for the next decade-plus. He already got off to a good start as a rookie in 2019, but they still expect to see significant improvement going forward. Getting more settled into the league and into the Steelers’ system should help a lot.