While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have surprised many fans with their move up in the draft to select Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, it would be fair to say they likely had very little of chance of getting him had they stayed with their original pick. Ranked by the experts as the second best linebacker available this year behind Devin White, some even had him rated as one of the top 10 players in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Reading through the array of scouting reports written about him ahead of the draft, it is easy to see what could have encouraged the Steelers to move up in round one for the first time since 2006. Barring some question about his size, the 5-foot-11 inside linebacker receives mostly glowing reports from the experts.
“Undersized three-down linebacker with the speed and cover talent to make an easy transition to WILL linebacker as a pro. There will be NFL defenses who pass on Bush due to his lack of size, but his ability to play fast and free as an outside linebacker should supersede those concerns. He will miss some tackles and get engulfed by blockers at other times, but his play strength and ability to run and cover are extremely valuable in today’s game and should not be diminished due to a tape measurement.”
Joe Marino, The Draft Network:
“Bush stacked consecutive dominant seasons together at Michigan while developing into a top linebacker prospect. A versatile defender, Bush projects favorably to all three linebacker positions but is likely most natural as an inside backer. His processing skills, physicality and range makes him an every-down option with playmaking upside. Bush does have some limitations when tackling and playing through contact that are present because he lacks ideal length. Bush should be able to start early in his career and become an impact playmaker with the upside to be the face of an NFL defense.”
Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:
“Devin Bush is a player who is set to benefit from this new era of play in the NFL. Bush’s mobility experience in numerous types of responsibilities against the run and upside as a 3rd down defender (blitz ability and potential in coverage) set him up for an impact role. Traditional reps thumping into interior gaps vs. OL takes Bush away from strengths, however. He should be utilized primarily in a gap penetration scheme with a strong DL.”
Short (5’11”) but thick, stocky 234-pounder who showed off impressive athleticism with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40½” vertical jump and 10’4” broad jump. All of his athletic testing is confirmed on film.
Brings power to the field with an explosive first step and bad intentions as a tackler and elite closing skills when zeroing in on a ball-carrier. Has fantastic balance and closing speed.
Instincts are top-tier; doesn’t get fooled by misdirection or play action; doesn’t take himself out of the play with missteps.
Will get after quarterbacks as a blitzer, both off the edge and through interior gaps.
Takes away outside running game with his speed to track the ball down.
Experienced and productive in pass coverage; fast enough to lock up tight ends or backs.
NFL bloodlines; his father, Devin, played at Florida State and was a first-round pick in 1995.
Can get caught looping to the ball instead of taking a direct angle.
Will miss some tackles because of a shorter tackle radius and grasp.
Big blockers can stop him in the middle of the line in the run game; has to learn to better stack up blockers.
Might be scheme-limited to a weak-side linebacker spot in the NFL, where he won’t be asked to take on as many blockers in the run game.
Bush was considered a great film guy who likely wouldn’t measure or test well, but he did both. Putting together his two years of production with elite athletic traits should have scouts and coaches opening up to the idea of him as a top-15 selection.
GRADE: 7.15 (ROUND 1—TOP-15 PLAYER POTENTIAL)
“Bush is a coach’s dream. He’s a great playmaker, showing instincts, athleticism, range, and a knack for finding the football. Bush is an aggressive downhill playmaker that finds away to navigate traffic and make plays wherever the football is.”
“Bush displays phenomenal range. He’s capable of flowing gap-to-gap or moving to the perimeter to cut down edge runs. Bush has had some beautiful reps in coverage, showing the ability mobility to thrive and carry position players vertically. He’s been an effective blitzer, showing some finesse to his pass rushing ability and usually finishes the job when he gets his hands on the ball carrier.”
“NFL teams will have some concerns about his length, but those can be alleviated by moving him to weakside linebacker, even though he will thrive more as an inside linebacker because of his diagnose skills, physicality and range.”
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football:
“With the NFL becoming a passing-driven league, pro teams need linebackers who are fast athletes and capable of contributing to pass coverage. Bush is that kind of linebacker, and he gave perfect proof with a stellar NFL Scouting Combine highlighted by a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash. Bush has a skill set that is coveted throughout the NFL.”
“Bush’s sophomore season was his best, and he totaled 101 tackles with five sacks, eight passes broken up and an interception. In 2018, Bush recorded 78 tackles with five sacks, nine tackles for a loss, six passes broken up and five sacks.”
“For the NFL, Bush is a seek-and-destroy linebacker. His best trait is world-class speed for a 5-foot-11, 234-pound linebacker. Bush can flat out fly while patrolling sideline to sideline and has the ability to cover a ton of ground. He displays easy speed to close on ball-carriers or receivers running into open territory. On top of his speed, Bush is an agile athlete who can break down in space and get backs to the ground. He is a steady open-field tackler and also will flash some violence, as he throws ball-carriers to the ground with authority. Bush also does a nice job of going for the strip when making a tackle.”
“As a run defender, Bush is at his best using speed to chase down ball-carriers. He has issues with holding his ground and taking on blocks, so he is not a skilled in-the-box run defender. That is one reason why his tackle total was depressed despite having played in a running conference. Offensive linemen are able to get a push on him and knock him back. Bush will sometimes try to run around blocks, but generally he is pretty good at holding his gap. Bush does very well defending perimeter runs and is quick to blast into the backfield when he sees a stretch play developing. He is aggressive and can be susceptible to overpursue. Bush also has average instincts that are moderately disappointing.”
“In pass coverage, Bush has the speed and athletic ability to be a real asset. He is fast to run with backs, tight ends and wide receivers. However, he needs to improve his recognition as he will take false steps in coverage that put him in a tough spot of having to close on separation. Bush covers a lot of ground in zone coverage in the middle of the field with the ability to limit gains downfield. He is a good blitzer, utilizing his speed to dart by blockers, and he is adept at generating pressure on the quarterback.”
“Bush’s best fit at the next level would come as a Will - weak side - linebacker playing next to a true Mike - middle - linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. That would help to let Bush run free and use his speed to make plays while reducing the amount of blocks he has to take on from offensive linemen.”
“In the 2019 NFL Draft, Bush is expected to be a first-round pick. His range is expected to be middle of the first round to late in the first round.”
Watching his highlight videos shows a player who SteelerNation could very quickly come to love.
If Bush can produce to the same levels as the last two players the Steelers traded up for in round one, Pittsburgh might yet have something special in the former Michigan linebacker.