While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 roster looks to be set at several positions, there are still a handful of starting roles yet to be decided and a number of backup up jobs remain up for grabs.
Over the coming weeks, BTSC editor Jeff Hartman and myself will take a look at some of the more obvious key names that will be fighting position battles throughout minicamp, OTAs and training camp later in the year, each taking a different side in the fight and providing our thoughts on why our pick will be the winner.
So far we have weighed in on the impending battles between quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, runnings backs Jaylen Samuel and Benny Snell Jr. wide receivers James Washington and Donte Moncrief and tackles Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor. Today we move onto the linebackers.
Devin Bush vs Mark Barron
Once upon a time, expectations that any Steelers first-round draft would be a starter during his rookie season were the preserve of the uninitiated, with the coaching staff previously perhaps more reluctant than most to trust a young player with that responsibility in their debut season. Starting on opening day almost unheard.
However, recent history has shown us that is no longer the case, with names like T.J. Watt, Terrell Edmunds and Ryan Shazier each opening their rookie seasons as starters, albeit due to injury in the case of Edmunds. For players like Artie Burns it only took him until Week 9 of his first year, while Bud Dupree did not take over until Week 12 of his. Jarvis Jones was the starter by Week 2, but the less said about him the better.
Devin Bush should have as good a chance as any of the prospects taken in the last six years to claim the starting role, his path made that much easier with the release of Jon Bostic just after the draft. But those discounting the veteran option in Mark Barron could yet be surprised come opening day.
There are many out there who believe this battle isn’t actually between Bush and Barron, but Barron and Vince Williams. Those who believe this to be the case, like myself, also believe Devin Bush will be the starting inside linebacker Week 1, and on, for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But to stick with this exercise, if I had to choose between Barron and Bush, it is a tough decision. Bush clearly is more athletic, but Barron has the experience on his side. Barron has played in big games on the biggest stage, mainly the Super Bowl last season, but Bush has a tenacity and grit which will likely endear himself to the fan base quickly upon his arrival at Heinz Field.
I liked the Barron signing when it happened, and I still like it now, but even though I see Bush and Barron being on the field a lot together this season, I’ll still take the upside, and athleticism, of Bush over Barron in this battle.
The potential that Bush offers the Steelers defense is undeniable, arguably one of the more dynamic players that Pittsburgh has selected in the first-round of the draft in the Mike Tomlin era. Set to battle with a veteran free agent who is also new to the team and faces the same challenge of learning a new playbook, Bush should be in a stronger position heading into training camp than many of the names who preceded him.
That being said, Mark Barron is a significant upgrade over Bostic as the main competition for the starting job and the relative speed and athleticism he offers is not to be ignored. The make or break for Barron will be how well he can bring his seven years of NFL experience to bear in this battle, and if Bush struggles to adapt to life at the next level or lags behind with his conditioning, the rookie could find his rival favored by the coaching staff in the early going.
As a former safety coming out of college and for his first two years in the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Barron is no slouch in coverage by comparison to most linebackers and his experience in that regard could easily see him as the prefered option to begin the year. Assuming he adjusts to the playbook, Barron would probably be the safer choice to line up next to Vince Williams, although perhaps lacking the playmaking potential of Bush.
Ultimately, it would not be a shock if Barron won the job in Week 1, with Bush still seeing significant playing time. But by midseason at the latest, it is hard to envisage the rookie still sitting behind him.
Who wins this camp battle?
This poll is closed