Devin Bush was the centerpiece of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 NFL Draft class. That’s pretty much unavoidable when you give up second-and third-round draft picks in order to move up in the first round to grab a player as your first pick, but even outside of the pedigree, he is the crown jewel in a class that already looks pretty promising overall.
After starting 15 of 16 games as a rookie and logging nearly 900 snaps on defense, the Steelers aren’t being coy about their expectations for Bush in year two. All the kid gloves are off. He will be treated like any other starter would be. And the expectations for him and his performance as well.
The good news is that’s what they’re getting, according to general manager Kevin Colbert. That’s what he told Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan earlier this evening while appearing on SiriusXM Radio. After losing a good chunk of their inside linebacker room from last season, that’s pretty important.
“Devin Bush looks like a veteran”, Colbert told his hosts. “Last year, he looked like a talented rookie trying to find his way to the cafeteria, to the locker room, the whole bit. Now he’s one of the guys, and I think he could have a really special season”.
Bush already delivered a strong statistical output from year one, accumulating 109 tackles—the first rookie in team history to do so—with nine tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions, plus four passes defensed. He returned one recovered fumble for a touchdown and was named the Defensive Player of the Week for that in Week Six.
But that was just a prelude to the player he’s meant to become. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to record six takeaways a year, but in between the stat sheet is where his performance will grow. He will play faster and smarter and cleaner. He will play more instinctually rather than intellectually, thinking about what he’s doing as opposed to being able to react.
One particular area of growth that will be necessary from him is playing within a zone coverage scheme. He had good numbers when he was singled up in man coverage due to his athleticism, but he let some things go because he was still adjusting to the zone concept. Cleaning up his tackling is another hurdle to climb.
Perhaps most of all, the Steelers want to see him step into the mouthpiece role of the defense. Earlier in camp, inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky said that the green dot is still up for grabs, but the team has been talking about wanting him in that role since he was first drafted. It’s a role he should have for the next decade.