The Pittsburgh Steelers undeniably viewed inside linebacker Devin Bush as a player who would never come off the field when they made the decision to trade up in the first round to draft him 10th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. They got him to that point in year two, but it’s not the role that he has been playing in his third season.
Of course, there was a major knee injury in between, and there has been a change in the starting lineup with the trade acquisition of Pro Bowler Joe Schobert, but the fact of the matter is, rather than playing 100 percent of the team’s snaps, he’s now playing about 85 percent. So how does he see himself as a player?
When asked if he still believes that he is a three-down linebacker following practice today, he said, “I think so”, courtesy of video provided by the team’s media department. “As of right now, we’re just doing things differently. We’ve ventured into different things. But as long as we’re winning, I think that takes care of everything”.
If you really want to try to read between the lines there, it does sort of sound as if he wants to be on the field for every play—which is not exactly a stretch—but he can live with not playing that role as long as the alternative package is working.
At the start of the season, the Steelers were alternating between Bush and Schobert as the lone linebacker on the field in their dime defense. More recently, they have been using Robert Spillane in that role…for reasons that have yet to be appropriately articulated, quite frankly, especially when you consider that they’re not even blitzing him in that role, as has been suggested.
Bush insists that he feels he is fully past any lingering mental or physical concerns pertaining to the injury that he spent the year overcoming, after he tore his ACL a little more than a year ago in a game against the Steelers’ upcoming opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
In theory, at least from a physical perspective, there should be no reason that he is not logging every single defensive snap out there. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler, though, did seem to imply earlier in the day, via transcript, that the coaches are expecting more out of him.
“When you’ve been hurt and you come back from an injury, sometimes it’s a little bit harder than you think. It just doesn’t automatically happen in the National Football League”, he said when asked if Bush is all the way back to where he was before his injury. “You’ve got to keep working at it, and he is. He’s continuing to work at it. I think he’ll get better; he’ll play better”.
The question is, will he return to that every-down role once he is playing better—assuming that he does play better? The Steelers have an important decision to make this upcoming offseason on whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option, which would be fully guaranteed as soon as they do, so they need all the data they can get on him right now.