Considering the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the Denver Broncos today, I figured it would be a good time to provide a glimpse into an alternative history—one in which Devin Bush is on the field, but on the other side of the ball.
As you surely remember, the Steelers traded up in the first round in 2019, going from 20 to 10, in order to take the stud out of Michigan. They sent their first- and second-round picks and their third-round pick in 2020 in order to put themselves in position to get their coveted player.
And they did precisely what they needed to, because if they hadn’t, he was about to be drafted. Their trade partner, in case you haven’t guessed or recalled yet, was Denver, and they were prepared to call in the pick, Bush’s name already written on their card and ready to be submitted, when Kevin Colbert called them up and confirmed that they wanted to do the deal they talked about as a possibility.
Adding to the irony is the fact that the Broncos somewhat recently signed Mark Barron, whom the Steelers originally signed as a street free agent in March last year, before they knew that they would be able to land Bush. Due in part to the salary cap, they let him go after one year, but were it not for their ability to pick up Bush, they would have had to find a way to keep Barron.
Who is, by the way, going to miss his second game in a row since his signing—meaning that he hasn’t played for Denver yet. One of the team’s biggest issues with him last season was the number of practices that he missed. The Broncos are seeing that now.
A pair of third-year players, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, started for the team at linebacker. Johnson racked up 12 tackles in his 2020 debut after starting 12 games the year before. Jewell added eight in his 13th start, nine of which as a rookie.
Meanwhile, Bush compiled 109 tackles as a rookie, picking off two passes, forcing a fumble, and recovering four of them, one of which he brought back for a touchdown. He showed the makings of a future perennial Pro Bowler, and picked up where he left off in the Steelers’ opener against the Giants.
The Broncos ended up drafting tight end Noah Fant and quarterback Drew Lock with the first- and second-round picks they got from the Steelers (they traded their second-round pick from Pittsburgh to move up for Lock), both of whom of course will be on the field today. Their 2020 third-round pick from Pittsburgh turned into Lloyd Cushenberry, who is already their starting center.
So Denver did get three starters out of that trade, which is no small feat, even with three picks in the first three rounds. Of course, their story is very much yet to be written, but we’ll see what the progress of that trade looks like today, 18 games since it was made.