2023 Stock Watch – ILB Devin Bush – Stock Down

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: ILB Devin Bush

Stock Value: Down

Reasoning: The four-year veteran inside linebacker, set to hit free agency next month, failed to start the final three games of the regular season despite being healthy, and logged just 10 defensive snaps over the final two weeks, received by most as an indication of the Steelers’ plans to move in another direction.

That the Steelers didn’t get their money’s worth out of Devin Bush is a debate that doesn’t even need to be had. They spent not just the 10th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to get him, but also the 59th in that draft and the 83rd in the next. And they paid him nearly $19 million, all of it fully guaranteed at the signing of his rookie deal (which is standard).

They originally held the 20th pick in that round, which they obviously also dealt to the Denver Broncos in order to move up in trade to draft him. Those three draft picks turned into tight end Noah Fant, another tight end, Drew Sample (in a pick traded to the Bengals), and center Lloyd Cushenberry, a three-year starter. Hilariously, the Broncos traded Fant to the Seattle Seahawks as part of a horrible deal that netted them the ghost of Russell Wilson.

This is all just a pretext to discussing the level of disappointment with which Bush’s tenure in Pittsburgh ends, as it surely will. In spite of a promising rookie season, his career completely turned around in the worst way after tearing his ACL six games into the 2020 season.

He was never the same again. Though he saw modest improvements last year, more willing to play to contact, he was completely without impact. He had 81 tackles, just two for loss, with two quarterback hits, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, zero fumble recoveries, zero interceptions, and two passes defensed—a career low, even when he only played in five games in 2020.

There was never a point during the 2022 season in which the Steelers entrusted Bush to be an every-down linebacker. They signed Myles Jack in free agency and let him do a lot of that, and Robert Spillane came in and did much of the rest. He only hit 90-plus snaps once when the depth was thin due to injury.

Yet he was removed from the starting lineup in the final three games. he logged just 31 snaps combined in the three, including just 10 in the final two. Rookie seventh-round pick Mark Robinson started over him. Robinson is not so far removed from being a running back. That tells you what you need to know.

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