For any young player, especially one coming off his rookie year, a big part of his opportunity to grow is going to come from a mental standpoint. Trying to learn something new and to execute on the premise of that new knowledge, at the same time, at a high rate of speed and efficiency, is very difficult, so the second time around tends to be smoother.
Aside from the mental, though, there are major avenues of growth in the physical and mechanical department, which often go hand-in-hand. For second-year Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush, these two facets intersect when it comes to the area of his game in which he wants to improve most from his rookie year.
“I want to be more efficient just with my movements”, he told reporters last week. “I’m not saying my movements were bad, but just playing in the system I played in in college and switching to a whole other system in the league, things had to change. I had to get more leaner. I had to train differently, and I think I’ve done a good job of that in the offseason and I think it’s gonna be better for me”.
Bush weighed in at 234 pounds during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, and that’s his listed weight on the team website. Considering he is 5’11”, that is pretty heavy at this day and age. Even Vince Williams, at 6’1”, is listed at 233 pounds.
Of course, the Michigan product didn’t have any problem posting a head-turning 40-yard dash time at the Combine, and his raw speed and quickness was never an issue during his first season in the NFL, but his processing speed would lag at times.
That ties into more specifically what Bush is talking about, which is movement efficiency. Avoiding false steps or extra steps can be the difference between an interception and a big completion, or a tackle for loss and first down. He experienced a little of both during the 2019 season. This year, he’s looking for a lot more of the former and less of the latter.
One thing that the Steelers talked about regarding Ryan Shazier as a rookie was that he was so fast that he could make up for a lot of his mistakes. We did see that during his first season, which was unfortunately marred by injury, but he took his game to a completely different level over the next three seasons with a lot less wasted movement, and he became a two-time Pro Bowler as a result.
Bush may be a tick slower than Shazier, but he has the elite sideline-to-sideline speed that could change this defense if he is able to obtain full capacity over his ability to reach point B from point A with great efficiency, which is achieved through a combination of athletic excellence and diagnostic swiftness.
The good news is that this is an area on which a lot of players grow substantially in their second seasons, and every indication seems to point to the good chances of Bush being included in that group. That he knows it’s an area in which he wants to grow is telling.