Though it is difficult for some individuals to admit, nobody's perfect. We all are merely human beings, and therefore fallible. No matter how hard we try, we are destined to make mistakes. It is always nice to have a trusted colleague we can depend on to help us clean up the mess and cover our gluteus maximus.
There used to be a center for the New York Knicks of the NBA named Marvin Webster back in the early 80's. His nickname was the Human Eraser because of his propensity to clean up many of the defensive inadequacies of his teammates. He seemed to always be lurking around the rim to block or alter the shots of any opponent who managed to penetrate their defense. Hence the rememberable nickname.
Football has had it's own share of noteworthy human erasers over the years, and the Steelers franchise has been blessed with more than their fair share throughout their storied history. Most now reside in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for their accomplishments. Let us reminiscent about the exploits of the Steel Curtain dynasty for a moment.
The Steel Curtain front four were nearly impenetrable and destroyed many opponent's offensive game plans before they ever got the chance to get started. On the rare occasions that the ballcarriers were able to reach the second or third levels of the defense, they found themselves faced with a whole new set of problems. Each level had it's own eraser: MLB Jack Lambert and S Donnie Shell.
If Lambert didn't stop the ballcarrier dead in his tracks, then Shell usually did. Their aggression and intensity were renowned and the resulting collisions are still the stuff of legend. Offenses truly feared the Steel Curtain defense. It was a different game in a different era, to say the least.
The modern day Pittsburgh Steelers defense hasn't been the same since that Monday Night game in Cincinnati with Ryan Shazier laying motionless on the turf. How could it be? That defense was built around his unique abilities on the football field. He was their human eraser so to speak. He helped cover for a world of ills, mask his teammates shortcomings if you will, with his otherworldly speed and movement skills.
That Steelers team had Super Bowl contender written all over it. The defense desperately needed another eraser at safety to reach their full potential, but they were doing their best with what they had. They were showing improvement each week and appeared to be gaining momentum as a unit. One devastating injury and legendary bad call later, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to this season, a season that has saw the dreaded injury bug raise it's ugly head repeatedly. Every franchise goes through a seemingly continuous string of bad luck season eventually, but the Steelers haven't had to endure one for quite awhile. Big Ben goes down and any Super Bowl aspirations goes right along with him. Thankfully it has been a long time since I felt that way.
Now the Steelers have to make the most of a bad situation, as do we the fans. So let's start by focusing on some encouraging developments. The Steelers drafted their next eraser, and then traded for another one. LB Devin Bush was drafted, and S Minkah Fitzpatrick was acquired via trade.
I am sure all of Steelers Nation remembers the moment as well as I do. On the first night of the 2019 NFL Draft, the clouds parted and Devin Bush descended from the heavens on a white horse to join the Steelers and add to their unmatched linebacker legacy. At least that is how I remember it. Steelers Nation prayers had been answered and since nobody likes a I-told-you-so, I will say no more.
You heard it here first, folks. I am going on record stating I believe Devin Bush has the potential to be a better player than Shazier was. I have always been a huge Shazier fan, but I also always had concerns. Two things about Shazier concerned me the most, and I had written about them in previous articles. The first concern was his slender build for the ILB position. Shazier is built more like a safety than a linebacker, if we are being honest. The incredible speed at which he played and the impacts it created were hazardous to his health and well being. The second concern was his uncontrollable habit of ducking his head at the point of impact. Couple that with the incredible force his playing speed created, and disaster was bound to happen, and sadly it did.
Devin Bush maybe short in stature for the position, but he possesses impressive width and girth. He also has superior speed for a inside linebacker, evidenced by his blazing forty times at the combine. Bush has strong football instincts and a knack for always being around the ball. Some have called it being in the right place at the right time, and believe it to be a gift that can't be taught. I call it a high motor player with a never-say-die attitude. Watch some YouTube videos of Mike Singletary, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, to name a few. You will notice an immediate similarity.
The trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick has brought another eraser to the backend of the Steelers defense, and he has teamed up with Terrell Edmunds to form one of the most talented young safety tandems in the league. Both young men should only get better with playing time and experience.
The future appears bright for each of these young men, and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization should reap the benefits of a job well done.