When Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin sat in front of the media to discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick on Thursday night, their excitement was clear to see.
Addressing the thought process that went into the decision to move up in round one for the first time since 2006, Colbert left no doubt that the Michigan product was a player they had identified very early in their evaluations.
#LIVE: GM Kevin Colbert and Coach Tomlin discuss our first round selection.#SteelersDraft | @UPMCHealthPlan#NFL Draft ➡️ April 25th-27th on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and online at https://t.co/UAb16GrUeT https://t.co/XiNoJ8VtEF— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 26, 2019
“Really, we identified Devin even going back into last year when we watched him as an underclassman. Coach [Mike Tomlin] had a handle on him really coming into this season. We scouted him extensively. We had four different people go in during the fall, myself included. We saw him play live games, we visited with him at the Combine, we visited with him the night before his Pro Day, of course attended his pro day. Again, this is a quality young man who’s really an excellent football player. As an inside linebacker, his game is really predicated on what is needed to play the position in modern day NFL football because he can not only play the run but he’s got exceptional cover abilities, and he can also rush the passer. So very, very exciting that we were able to move up and to be able to get a young player, a young man, like Devin Bush.
And while moving up 10 spots in the draft was rather unexpected, the Steelers general manager suggested the deal was less easy to make given how highly they valued the linebacker.
“Devin was very high on our board. And as we said the other day when we did the pre-draft conference, if a player is high on your board and he gets within reach, then you make the necessary moves to go up and get him. Fortunately, we found a trade partner in Denver. But really it was where Devin was on our board. We thought that highly of him. I don’t want to say it was an easy trade to make, but it was easy in our minds to pick him with the 10th pick. So, we did what we had to do. When we gave away the second-round pick, the thing that allowed us to do that was having that high third. We actually gave up 14 spots, that third, that second, that third high third really enabled us to do it because we said under no circumstances would we go into tomorrow with less than two picks. That was our criteria when myself and coach and Art Rooney sat down. Surely we’ll look into trading up, but we want to have two picks tomorrow because they’re good players still left. So being able to do it with this year’s two and next year’s three, we believe at this point we’ll have some type of compensatory pick in 2020. So that gives you a little bit more justification for trading away the future pick. Again, we’ll have a pick but we don’t know what it will be at this point, but we think we’ll get a pick. So hopefully it balances out to some equation. But again, getting this player into our mix at this point was very exciting.”
“It really wasn’t stressful. We talked before and again we had our board lined up and knew the twenty guys we’d take and the order we took them. We had this in mind. We hoped it was going to work out and if it didn’t, we were going to be fine picking ten players because this a deep group and we could have come away more than, but we still have eight picks. That’s what was really exciting. So it really wasn’t stressful because you call teams. They either want to do it, or they don’t. And if they don’t then you move on and make the best of the situation. So really stress was never an element.”
“I can’t speak for them, but it really wasn’t stressful for us. It just happened as we hoped it would happen, but if it hadn’t happened we would’ve tried to make the best of the situation.”
“It really wasn’t that complicated. We touched base earlier in the day and exchanged some ideas and usually when you do that you always know. No one wants to make a deal until you’re on the clock because you don’t know what you’re trading away from. We don’t know what you’re trading up for. It really wasn’t that complicated. You get on the phone and it’s we’ll do this, and they say OK we’ll do it.”
For Tomlin, the chance to get a player he described as a three-down linebacker was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“I share Kevin’s excitement. Succinctly, he’s an all situations linebacker. Really all three-down type of a guy versus the run, versus the pass, being in coverage, or in pressures. And those are just the tangible things. We are equally as fired up about his intangibles. He comes from a football family. He’s a football guy. Everyone speaks very highly of him, not only as a player, but as a person. His leadership skills are unquestioned. We interviewed a lot of Michigan players through the Draft process and it was unanimous in terms of who their unquestioned leader was, and that was attracted to us as well. The position that he plays is like a defensive quarterback, and I think that’s something that comes very natural to him.”