Given the number of starters the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost this offseason, it’s all the more important that the team manages to grow from within, highlighted by ascending young players, like Devin Bush. The 2019 first-round inside linebacker missed most of last season after tearing his ACL.
But he’s been cleared to practice, beginning training camp active and participating, avoiding the Active/PUP List. He ramped up activities yesterday during the team’s first padded practice session, as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed, and the upward trajectory continues.
“Devin is healthy”, his position coach, Jerry Olsavsky, confirmed to reporters earlier today, writes Teresa Varley. “Devin worked really hard in his rehab. Now, this is the mental part of the rehab, where you got to be on the field and do things again. And that’s a lot harder than the physical stuff”.
The team has taken a cautious approach to Zach Banner as well, who also suffered a torn ACL last season. The right tackle got his first little taste of team drills earlier today, though he was limited, despite also being deemed healthy.
But it’s best to ramp up to full-speed work, even if a player is fully medically cleared. There is that mental adjustment Olsavsky talked about that must be made, and you also have to make sure that you’re playing without thinking, which could lead to further injury.
“Devin’s used to working his tail off to be a great player”, the inside linebackers coach said. “That part of the rehab, the mental is now what’s got to come in and that’s hard. He’s in good shape. He was out there for a couple of full go plays, and they looked nice”.
The Steelers traded up in the first round in 2019 in order to draft Bush, believing him to possess the sort of centerpiece talent that can secure a place in their defense for the next decade. His defining trait was his elite speed, but he’ll have to prove that he still has it come September.
His role was only made all the more important with the retirement of Vince Williams, more or less making him the young veteran of the group, with the most playing experience. Others, such as Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, and Ulysees Gilbert III, might have been in the league as long or longer, but lack the same amount of playing time.
Bush has 135 career tackles to date in 21 games, with nine tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defensed, a forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown. And he still has plenty of untapped potential left over.