Steelers News

Devin Bush: Thursday ‘A Good Time To Get Buddy [Johnson] Some Reps’ After Rookie Logs First Defensive Snaps

Buddy Johnson has been a healthy scratch for the majority of his rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in fact the only draft pick who has not been a regular contributor to his unit this year.

The fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M has gotten a helmet four times now, though, playing in three of them, but Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings was the first time he was on the field for the defense, logging six snaps, the first of which resulted in a pass deflection from Devin Bush that was intercepted by Ahkello Witherspoon.

Marcus Allen also played nine snaps during the game at inside linebacker, while Bush and Joe Schobert each played 58, or 83 percent of the total. Those snaps all came late in the game, and he mixed and matched with both starters.

We put in Buddy in with me, we put Buddy in with Scho. I think that was a good time to get Buddy some reps with both linebackers, and obviously as we get toward the end of the season, we have a future to look forward to, so it was good to get Buddy some reps”, Bush said about the rookie garnering playing time during the game.

To be clear, Allen and Johnson played two different roles. Allen served as the Steelers’ dime linebacker during the game, a role that had been occupied by Robert Spillane for most of the season, who has been out with injury and more recently, with COVID-19.

Johnson, on the other hand, was playing in the Steelers’ 3-4 front—not even in their nickel defense when there are still two inside linebackers on the field. All six of his snaps came in the 3-4 look, starting with the first Witherspoon interception, and logging six out of seven snaps in a row (with one dime snap in between).

But he did not see the field on any of the Steelers’ final 13 plays, even with some 3-4 sets mixed in there. It’s really not clear why they played him at all, or why they stopped playing him. It almost seems exactly like Bush said—they just wanted to see him get some playing time.

Perhaps they decided not to play the rookie once it started to look like the Steelers might actually have a prayer of getting back into the game, with garbage time becoming meaningful snaps again. The fact that they were playing on a short week was also obviously a factor in getting different personnel involved to give guys some time off.

But will we see more of Buddy going forward? Head coach Mike Tomlin will surely be asked this question later today. I think a lot of people would be interested in the answer. A lot of people already see this as a lost season anyway, and probably just want the Steelers to start him over Bush at this point.

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