A rough third year in his return from a knee injury has raised doubts for Pittsburgh Steelers’ young linebacker Devin Bush. So much so, in fact, that the Steelers made the decision to decline his fifth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season ends.
Knowing how bad his third season was from a physical and mental standpoint, Devin Bush — while speaking with reporters Wednesday following the Steelers’ OTA session at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex — stated that he didn’t need the extra added motivation from the declined fifth-year option knowing that he’s out to show he is a starting caliber NFL linebacker moving forward.
It helps that this offseason, Bush was able to fully work out like he would before any other season, including running on the beach in sand to improve his explosiveness, according to a tweet from the Associated Press’s Will Graves, something he couldn’t do last summer while recovering from the torn ACL suffered in the 2020 season against the Cleveland Browns.
“I got a chance to go home and I spent two months at home, and I was able to just go out on the field and put my cleats on whenever I felt like it. And I was just telling the guys that last year at this time I wasn’t on field as much,” Bush said to reporters, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “It was managing my reps. They was holding me back just precautionary and everything. But, after the season I got a chance to go. I was running miles on the beach, I was cutting, playing, jumping, playing around and my knee wasn’t an issue.
“So I think I was able to get back to that and just do normal things,” Bush added. “And I think to get my confidence back in myself and my knee, I think that was a big part of my rehab was, honestly, actually after the season.”
Now, with a fully healthy offseason ahead, Bush is aiming to return to his rookie season level, which was rather promising overall.
“I was already motivated, whether they picked up my fifth year or not,” Bush said to the Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski, according to video from the locker room posted by Adamski. “I’m just motivated to play football, and motivated to win.”
There is plenty of reason for motivation for Bush, who was one of the worst linebackers in football last season from a grading standpoint from Pro Football Focus, posting a 34.4 overall grade last season in 762 total snaps, including an egregious 27.2 overall grade against the run. Bush’s 34.4 overall grade was 183rd out of 200 graded linebackers last season by PFF.
Down the stretch, Bush’s play declined significantly, especially against the run, which played a part in the Steelers’ defense struggling to stop the likes of the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens on the ground late in the season, leading to Bush coming off the field in certain situations for the likes of Robert Spillane and rookie Buddy Johnson (when active).
With plenty of doubts surrounding not only his 2022 outlook, but his career outlook as well, there’s certainly enough motivation to drive Bush throughout the offseason and hopefully propel him into a solid fourth season in the black and gold, possibly helping him stick around moving forward.