“The [upcoming season] is a big year for [X party]”. How many times have we seen infinite variations of this notion, whether it’s about a player or a team? How many big years can everybody have? Well, it turns out, a lot of them.
And it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that the 2022 season is a big one for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Devin Bush, who is tasked with proving that he is (or still is, or can again be) a competent, capable starting inside linebacker.
The former 10th-overall pick is coming off of a genuinely awful season during which he probably would have spent more time on the bench had the Steelers had a healthier and more experienced group behind him. And ESPN’s Brooke Pryor chose him as the player on the roster with the most to prove entering training camp, writing:
Bush is entering the final year of his contract after the Steelers declined to pick up his fifth-year option. The former first-round pick had a frustrating 2021 season, his first after tearing an ACL midway through a promising 2020 campaign. While Bush appeared to be physically recovered from the tear, mentally, he appeared overly cautious and hesitated in crucial moments. He finished the season with 70 total tackles, good for sixth on the team. Another year out from the surgery, Bush enters a make-or-break season — especially with the addition of senior defensive assistant Brian Flores, who will also be working closely with the linebackers. The Steelers also added inside linebacker Myles Jack, another player Bush can learn from — and one who will push him beginning with training camp.
Bush played in and started 14 games last season, logging 762 snaps in the process, playing 79 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He recorded 70 tackles during the year with two sacks, a forced fumble, and four passes defensed, but watching the tap tells a different story from what the stats may say.
As Pryor noted, Bush was playing on a surgically-repaired ACL last season, which he suffered in the first half of the year in 2020. He spent quite a bit of the offseason simply rehabbing his injury, though he was able to practice during training camp.
While he may have been physically ready to play, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was playing to the best of his physical capabilities. Many players show improvement in their second season following a serious injury like an ACL tear because the knee is still continuing to heal.
But the physical aspect was just one part of the equation, and Bush already acknowledged that he struggled mentally, as well. But by and large he has said and done all the right things so far this offseason—often involving not saying much. He will have his opportunity to prove himself once the season starts.