If the Pittsburgh Steelers comes to an end sometime before Week 18, there will be less for the Steelers to play for. But there will still be several things on the line. The pride of competing, of wanting to win, and trying to play spoiler in the final weeks against AFC North teams Baltimore and Cleveland over the final two weeks. There’s also the reality a new regime, Omar Khan and Andy Weidl, will have their first full offseason managing the team with plenty of decisions to make. For pending free agents like LB Devin Bush, the next three weeks are last chances to show you deserve to stick around.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mike Tomlin offered his evaluation on Bush, whose fifth-year option was declined and is playing out the last year of his rookie deal.
“He’s been solid,” he said courtesy of the team’s YouTube channel. “He’s done all the things that we’ve asked him to do. Can’t say enough about some of the things that you don’t see, the communication things as a young professional.”
Bush has certainly made strides compared to last season, a year where he was coming off a 2020 torn ACL. This year, he’s recorded 76 tackles (two for a loss) with two pass deflections. He’s been among the team’s best tacklers with consistently one of the lowest missed tackle rates on the team. Heading into the Panthers’ game, it sat at just a 2.5% miss rate, an excellent figure.
But his play goes beyond the box score. Bush is more aggressive, more physical, and not as tentative to take on or defeat blocks as he was last season, perhaps suggesting more confidence in his knee. As Tomlin says, he’s improved and taken charge as a communicator, something we noted weeks ago. His pre-snap body language looks far more assertive and active than passive and silent, calling out checks and motions and pre-snap changes. We made a video highlighting both areas of improvement back in November.
Tomlin has praised Bush throughout the season and treated his play and improvement as a non-story and media creation. Certainly, the media and fanbase have been hard on him and understandably so. A former top ten pick the team traded up for to be their next Ryan Shazier, Bush has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play.
His play in 2022 has been better, a credit to the work he’s put in and the job Brian Flores has done. But Bush’s low points are still low and the inside linebacker group as a whole isn’t making enough splash plays. Bush and Myles Jack are racking up the tackles but not much else. It’s still more likely than not Bush is in his final year with the Steelers and the team will once again look for ILB help during the 2023 offseason. Free agency is an option, though Pittsburgh’s primed that well many times already, while the draft makes plenty of sense. Iowa’s Jack Campbell seems like a perfect fit for Pittsburgh.
Even if Bush is elsewhere in 2023, he’s played well enough to earn free agency interest and potentially start for another team next season. He’s saved a bit of face in his career though he’s going to remembered as one of the bigger misses of the Kevin Colbert era.