The Pittsburgh Steelers got their third preseason win yesterday against the Detroit Lions, winning by a score of 19-9. Pittsburgh finished the preseason with a perfect 3-0 record, pulling off come from behind victories against the Seahawks and Jaguars and controlled the game for the most part against Detroit throughout the contest.
After struggling mightily against the run against Seattle, Pittsburgh has done better the last two weeks at keeping a lid on things upfront. Still, there have been some leaks in the front seven that can be pointed out when going back through the tape.
One player that continues to stick out for the wrong reasons is LB Devin Bush who had several instances of poor play against Detroit, most notably on this 27-yard run on a draw play called on 3rd-and-17. Bush recognizes the draw, but runs to the outside shoulder of #88 T.J. Hockenson, allowing the TE to get hands inside his chest and latch on. Bush is unable to rip off as #28 Jermar Jefferson runs away from Bush’s arm tackle and bounces it toward the sideline for the explosive play.
Bush has always seemed to struggle at getting off blocks against the run, lacking the strength and length to keep blockers off his frame. Here is another example where the RT climbs to the second level and picks up Bush in the box on the counter run. Bush eventually gets in on the stop, but only after the runner gets into the secondary to move the chains.
On this play, Bush attempts to go around the LG #73 Jonah Jackson on the blitz in the left side B gap but can’t turn the corner. However, Jackson blatantly holds Bush around the collar, getting the yellow hankie thrown his direction for the penalty.
Bush’s run defense wasn’t all bad as evidenced by his key fourth down stop here with Myles Jack where Bush loops in from the B gap and takes down #42 Justin Jackson from behind. Granted, Bush came free on the play, but he managed to get home and make the tackle to force Detroit into a punting situation.
Along with that stop, Bush did show instances where he was willing to take on contact and fill gaps like Cam Heyward mentioned in the locker room after the game concluded. On this outside zone run, we see Bush attack the outside shoulder of the LG, keeping the back from going through the left side B gap as Myles Jack comes flying in to make the tackle in the gap right next to Bush. Bush may not make the play here, but at least he keeps gap integrity and helps free up Jack to make the stop.
However, Bush’s struggles in pass coverage continued into the game versus the Lions as he would easily get faked out at the top of routes and fail to limit separation. Hockenson got the best of Bush on Detroit’s first play from scrimmage on offense, running a stick route from the slot where Bush bites inside as Hockenson whips back outside, catching the ball in-stride for an easy catch-and-run for the first.
Overall, it wasn’t an awful performance from Bush like we have seen at times last season, but it hardly gives you any confidence that he can be viable running mate next to Jack at ILB in 2022. Bush saw himself rotating often with Robert Spillane Sunday afternoon, being benched for Spillane after the big run on the draw play. The two played nearly identical snaps as Spillane has pushed Bush all training camp for starter’s reps at ILB next to Myles Jack in Pittsburgh’s base and nickel defenses.
While Bush is a better athlete than Spillane, he didn’t play to that level on Sunday with Spillane likely the overall better coverage defender in terms of zone drops and picking up receivers in coverage. At this point, it may be worth looking at what a starting lineup of Jack and Spillane could do versus Jack and Bush since Bush still can’t seem to string together enough good plays together to be an effective inside linebacker. While he may be a former first round pick that Pittsburgh traded up for, the team should be open to looking at their options with Spillane and possibly even Mark Robinson if they feel that he is ready for snaps with the first team defense.
What are your thoughts on Devin Bush? Do you think that he has done enough to hold down his starting spot in 2022? Do you think that it will be a rotation at ILB this season next to Jack, or will one of the other ILBs overtake him completely? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!