For all of us in life, there are certain stigmas or fears that we, as humans, generally avoid or are afraid to face. The fear of public speaking? Perhaps an association of a certain food when we were younger that makes our stomachs turn? Maybe getting bit by a dog even? That’s exactly how Steelers’ inside linebacker compared that situation to his rehab and return from the ACL tear he sustained during his sophomore season. The tweet from ESPN reporter Brooke Pryor back in December below exposes Bush’s mindset following such a severe knee injury:
Devin Bush says the mental aspect is the most difficult part of rehab from the ACL tear. Compares it to getting bit by a dog.
“If you get bit by a dog, the next time you see a dog, (you’re thinking about the bite).”
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) December 13, 2021
Bush was often a target of many critics during his return from injury last season, as the run defense ranked dead last in the league statistically. As a rookie, it immediately looked like the team was getting a nice return on its first-round trade they made to acquire Bush. Finally, it appeared it had found its next great inside linebacker, as Bush was a playmaker all over the field, routinely stuffing the stat sheet with tackles, fumble recoveries, and a few picks.
However, in Week 6 of his sophomore season, Bush suffered a torn ACL in a victory over the Browns. For anyone familiar with that injury, the rehab process is a slow and arduous one. After returning last season, Bush did not look like the same player that the team had traded up to acquire in the 2019 draft. To label him tentative would be a massive understatement, and if he wasn’t slow to read and react, he was getting swallowed up on the second level by blockers. Many say this went hand-in-hand with the mass injury casualties that the team suffered along their defensive front.
The general thinking with these type of knee injuries is that the player usually doesn’t return to their pre-injury form until a year or so removed from sustaining it. We can all count Mike Tomlin in on that thought process, as evidenced by his statement regarding Bush at a presser a bit ago:
'I expect him to get better, just like I expect all of our young players to get better. I am excited about him getting back out there and having a clean bill of health.' – Coach Tomlin on Devin Bush
— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) March 27, 2022
As we all are aware of, GM Kevin Colbert’s track record of the team trading up in the first round isn’t very long. The fact that they mortgaged future precious draft ammunition to jump up ten spots in 2019 to acquire Bush shows what they ultimately thought of him. The fact that he regressed last season upon his return can be attributed to a multitude of factors.
However, now well over a year removed, and also paired with another highly athletic inside linebacker in the form of recently-signed Myles Jack, the blueprint is there for Bush to regain the explosive promise he showed us as a rookie. The return of several starting defensive linemen to occupy blockers will also help, but the last hurdle for Bush is all upstairs and if he can put that injury truly in the rearview mirror, we could be looking at his best season yet.