A day after saying he was unsure why the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and ultimately retain him, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Devin Bush struck a different tone. In his intro press conference with Seattle media, which aired on the team website, Bush admitted he didn’t always live up to expectations in Pittsburgh.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t say it was up to par, but I had my ups and downs,” Bush said via a Seahawks’ team transcript when asked to reflect on his four years with the Steelers. “I think I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about this business, and I learned about what I want out of it. I thank the Steelers for taking a chance on me and I thank them for the four years that I had, but it’s obviously time to move on, go to different things, and learn some more.”
Bush’s career in Pittsburgh had more downs than ups. The Steelers loved him coming out of Michigan, sending the house to his Pro Day They ultimately made the aggressive move to jump 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft, trading with Denver to secure Bush at #10. A great athlete at Michigan, he was a fantastic sideline-to-sideline player who shut down perimeter runs.
His rookie season was competent, flashing his speed to chase the ball on the outside, though he struggled to learn the nuances of coverage at the next level. Things improved five games into 2020 before he tore his ACL against the Cleveland Browns, missing the rest of the season. He worked hard to get ready for 2021 but his play was poor, not playing with confidence and not attacking the run like any Steelers’ linebacker should. Speaking to reporters Friday, he discussed the mental and physical challenges of getting over a severe knee injury.
“It was a lot” he said. “It was my first time getting surgery and my first time missing a season in my whole entire career…it was all new to me, everything was all new, everything was coming so fast, and everything was moving fast.”
Ahead of the 2022 season, Pittsburgh made the obvious choice to decline his fifth-year option and Bush played out this past season on the remainder of his rookie deal. Though his play was better than 2021, it still wasn’t good enough. Robert Spillane and Mark Robinson chipped away at his playing time and by season’s end, Bush barely saw the field. Over his final two games against run-heavy teams in Baltimore and Cleveland, he logged only 10 snaps.
While Bush didn’t have a great time in Pittsburgh — he certainly heard the criticism from fans — he reiterated that the NFL is a business and things don’t always work out.
“Sometimes moving along may be the best case or staying may be the best case,” he said. “Everybody has their own reasons on why they do things, so I feel like there are never hard feelings in this business.”
Bush and Pittsburgh were ready to move on and did. The Steelers added three new inside linebackers in Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts and special teamer Tanner Muse today. Bush gets to start anew in Seattle, a different scheme and system that may keep him cleaner. He’ll also get to play alongside of Bobby Wagner, who returned to Seattle for perhaps the final year of his career.
Bush went on to say that heading out west to Seattle is the start of a new chapter and change of scenery to help rebuild his career. The Seahawks also seem intent on offering him the chance to start, an attractive proposition for a player like Bush on a one-year deal. If he plays well, he could earn a nice contract in 2024.
“I felt like it would be a good chance for me to get outside of my comfort zone and go to Seattle to learn the ways out there and get a chance to play football again,” he said
Some of Bush’s struggles were on him. And regardless of reason, he didn’t play well enough. That’s why the Steelers moved on. That’s the NFL. But he was also tasked with replacing a unique talent in Ryan Shazier and dealt with the mental and physical obstacles of his ACL tear. Hopefully Bush can revive his career in Seattle and show why he was viewed as a first-round pick in the first place.