The Pittsburgh Steelers have been getting below-the-line performances from far too many players in their starting lineup this year, and in particular from some key figures with high pedigree. Chief among them may be third-year inside linebacker Devin Bush, who did return within 11 months of a torn ACL, to his credit. Speaking to reporters yesterday, he did acknowledge that it had taken a mental toll on him returning to the field.
“The biggest part is mental. If I had to make a good example, it would be like, if you get bit by a dog, who’s to say the next time you go to pet a dog”, he said, that you won’t be worrying about getting bit again. That is surely a common phenomenon for players returning from major injuries.
“Early in the season, it was definitely a learning process just getting my mind back in football mode”, he said, acknowledging that it took some time before things got better, rather than worse. “Toward the middle of the season, I was going through some more mental issues of just being out there and knowing I have to make plays and winning. That was my biggest thing”.
There were a few games in particular over the past several weeks that following which he has been called out directly by Steelers alumni who played on defense, like Ryan Clark, Arthur Moats, and Chris Hoke, who seriously questioned his effort and mental engagement.
And there are times that he has been rotated out, as well. He’s been coming off the field in dime all year. But he still believes in his abilities, and that there is still better football in front of him. “I feel like if I wasn’t reading or reacting that fast, then I wouldn’t be starting”, he said.
“Up until this point, I think I’m settling in pretty good, and I’ve got a lot of stuff to build off of, a lot of things during the season that I did good, a lot of things during the season that I didn’t do so well”, Bush added. “We’ve always got something to work on. It just gives me a map of where I need to start and what I need to work on”.
It will be interesting to see how the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin approach the inside linebacker position this week, especially if Robert Spillane is healthy enough to get back on the practice field. They had Marcus Allen and rookie Buddy Johnson logging some defensive snaps on Thursday already.
Bush has played in 12 games this season, missing one due to a groin injury, logging 660 snaps. He has 61 tackles, including two for loss, with two sacks and four quarterback hits. He has forced one fumble and recovered another, recording three passes defensed. But the raw statistics only begin to tell the story that the tape has to share.