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NFL.com Tabs Steelers Former First Round Pick As Likely Candidate To Lose Starting Job

As the first player the Pittsburgh Steelers player traded up in the first round of a draft since safety Troy Polamalu in 2003, inside linebacker Devin Bush came into the organization in 2019 with about as high of expectations as any first-round pick. After showing flashes in his rookie year, an ACL tear in 2020, an underwhelming season in 2021, and the Steelers declining his fifth-year option led many to raise questions on whether the trade-up for Bush was a mistake. As such, Eric Edholm of NFL.com recently tabbed Bush as a first-stringer who could lose his starting role in 2022.

“Bush’s career has gone off track since his 2020 ACL injury, and now the player the Steelers once traded up for in Round 1 appears to be battling to keep his starting job,” Edholm stated regarding Bush. “The team has been rotating Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, and Bush for first-team reps at inside linebacker, and Bush’s spotty play a year ago won’t soon be forgotten.”

Indeed, Bush never quite appeared the same as his college and rookie-year self after his Week 6 ACL tear in 2020. Bush’s poor play against the run in 2021 resulted in him losing snaps to the likes of fellow inside linebackers Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen. In signing inside linebacker Myles Jack and cutting inside linebacker Joe Schobert this past offseason, it’s clear that the Steelers were all but satisfied with their middle linebacker play in 2021, especially against the run.

“He can change that with a big camp and preseason, but the Steelers might not be convinced that will occur given that they declined his fifth-year option over the summer,” Edholm continued regarding a potential resurgence for Bush. “At the very least, Bush is at risk of seeing his role reduced unless he can display the form he showed in a strong rookie season.”

Given that Bush is receiving first-team reps in training camp this summer, it’s safe to assume that the team is convinced and invested in a fourth-year resurgence. The declining of his fifth-year option, as recently seen with safety Terrell Edmunds, is not necessarily an indicator that the team has given up on him. It’s also important to raise the question of who Bush would be benched for.

Assuming that Jack will start at one of the two inside linebacker positions in 2022, the competition for Bush this summer seems to consist of Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III, Mark Robinson, Robert Spillane, and Buddy Johnson. Simply put, it’s going to take a big training camp and pre-season performance from those other linebackers, as well as an incredibly poor performance from Bush, for the former first-round draft to lose his starting job by Week 1. If one thing is for sure, however, it’s that Bush will need to improve his play from 2021.

While it’s still early, it’s certainly not a bad sign that Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt recently highlighted Bush’s performance in training camp. A late-boomer type of resurgence is not impossible, as there are many examples in the NFL, including that of former Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior. If a career resurgence does take place, Bush could possibly parlay that into a nice new contract next offseason and possibly even with the Steelers.

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