Devin Bush is facing a make-or-break fourth year in Pittsburgh. Three weeks into the summer, he looks closer to breaking than making. PFT’s Chris Simms fielded a mailbag question from one ostensible Steelers fan expressing concern over Bush’s performance and future with the team. Though generally an optimist, Simms admitted he shares the same worry.
“I’m a little concerned,” he said in a segment which aired yesterday. “He’s going to be on the team, we know that. But he doesn’t look like the Devin Bush his rookie year before his knee went out.”
Bush is now two years removed from the torn ACL that ended his 2020 season, recently telling reporters the injury’s behind him. The concern over his game is not. Bush made it back in time for Week 1 last year but struggled through the season, losing playing time to Robert Spillane and making up part of Pittsburgh’s awful run defense. Bush started last Saturday’s preseason opener but put up a goose egg on the stat sheet.
“Did not look comfortable the other night,” Simms went on to say. “Did not make many plays. Wasn’t around the ball a whole lot.”
Bush’s worst moment came on this cutback run by Seattle’s Travis Homer, Bush unblocked but never getting hands on Homer, who jets past for a gain of 16.
Pittsburgh has worked a three-man rotation this summer of Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, and Bush. Jack, signed to a two-year deal this offseason, will start and should be the Steelers’ every-down linebacker. It’s a battle between Bush and Spillane to work next to Jack. Bush may currently have the advantage, if only out of deference to his status and contract, but Spillane’s played well this summer and is pushing hard for playing time. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Spillane eat into Bush’s snap count throughout the season.
Simms believes Bush’s knee injury has derailed his career.
“Devin Bush’s certainly lost explosiveness ever since the knee. And because of that, doesn’t seem to be quite as physical or stick his head in there quite the way he used to. Being the ballhawk I thought he would be or looked like his rookie year.”
In moments, Bush still looks explosive and athletic. But he’s lacked a physicality successful Steelers’ linebackers always carry, while his technique, especially in coverage, is poor and saps him of those innate athletic traits. In fairness to him, his camp has not been terrible, and Linebackers Coach Brian Flores went to bat for him while T.J. Watt noted his improvement.
Still, at best, Bush will become a player who does his job at an acceptable and competent level. A far cry of what he was supposed to be. Even Simms’ commentary of Bush being a ball-hawking rookie is overstated. His play that year, especially in coverage, was average at best. He showed signs of improving in 2020 prior to the injury but has since regressed. Barring some dramatic, unforeseen turnaround, 2022 will be Bush’s final one in black and gold.