The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Devin Bush has been something akin of public enemy number one within the fanbase in recent weeks—and that fanbase extends to former players, of which multiple have specifically come on and called out his play, including Arthur Moats and Chris Hoke.
A former 10th overall pick in 2019, Bush was a day-one starter, but he suffered a severe torn ACL five games into his second season, and has spent the past year recovering from injury, getting back into football shape, and just working to continue to mature as a player and as a person.
Everyone and their mother has, by now, observed that there is much left to be desired in his performance this season. It’s indisputable that he has to play better. Head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged yesterday that he needs work both in the physical department and in the mental department. But he attributed it to more general concerns.
“It’s both because he’s an extremely young guy”, he told reporters when asked if he needed physical or mental work. “He’s still very much growing in terms of awareness and the things that come with playing inside linebacker in the National Football League. And obviously, he needs physical work because there’s a lack of volume of plays on his career resume. He’s a guy that probably falls into both categories, like a lot of people”.
There have been calls for Tomlin to bench Bush, something that he actually hinted at. Early in Sunday’s game, after Bush struggled with multiple runs and then was penalized, he actually did come out of the game and was replaced by Robert Spillane.
Spillane suffered an injury early on, however, so the reality is that we don’t know how the rest of the game would have unfolded and how much Bush would have continued to play. He did play the rest of the way, outside of dime snaps.
There aren’t a lot of enticing options beyond Spillane. The next men up at linebacker are Ulysees Gilbert III and Marcus Allen, two players a lot of people have wanted to see cut in the very recent past. Then there’s rookie Buddy Johnson, who has been a healthy scratch all year except when injuries have forced him to dress.
Still, if Bush continues to play as he has in recent weeks, it’s really hard to imagine that the Steelers would continue to leave him out there for 90 percent of the snaps. If anything, they may resort to playing more dime, or utilizing an extra outside linebacker—though they’ve eviscerated their depth there.
Miles Killebrew would be one ‘big dime’ option if they went that route, as Will Allen was for the Steelers in 2013 when Larry Foote suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. They spent the rest of the season with the dime as their most common defensive package, rather than relying too heavily upon a then-rookie sixth-round pick in Vince Williams.