For the first time in the better part of a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to not use their first-round draft pick on the defensive side of the ball, something that they have done every year since 2013, including for the 2020 NFL Draft, when they traded their first-round pick for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
They will, however, be getting a first-round pick back on the field after missing more than two thirds of the season last year. That would be third-year inside linebacker Devin Bush, the highest-drafted player on the roster (aside from Joe Haden, anyway).
The Steelers moved up from the 20th spot in the first round to 10th in order to draft him, and they had to in order to get him. According to reports, the Denver Broncos were so ready to draft Bush themselves at 10 before the trade came in that they already had his name written down on their draft card.
He ended up in Pittsburgh, of course, and had a very encouraging rookie season, but his second year would only last about four and a half games before he tore his ACL, so his focus since October has been on rehabbing his knee, and finding sources of motivation to come back better than before.
“For the most part, just missing that time with your teammates, with your coaches, and everybody in the building, it’s hard to be alone and watch football every Sunday and not be able to participate. A lot of that motivation comes from that”, he said during a recent Q&A session he had with Steelers Nation Unite members.
“As a competitor, the motivation of coming back and being better is another motivator”, he added. “Just sitting there and being able to take everything in, being able to put that energy somewhere else, you’ve got to put that into your rehab and things that you want to get accomplished for next year”.
Perhaps watching Devin White win a Super Bowl while having a great year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can be a source of motivation as well. White was drafted ahead of Bush, and the two went into the draft as the undisputed top two prospects at their position, with some debate as to which of the two would be the better long-term player.
A lot will be riding on Bush coming back and playing at a Pro Bowl level. That is what they drafted him to be, and that is what they need to get out of him, given the costs that they have sunk into him to ensure that he would be able to deliver at such a critical position in the middle of the defense.