Today in the film room we are going to look at Devin Bush’s kind-of-but-not-really first game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s preseason, so it barely even counts, but the real stuff is weeks away, so this is what we have at the moment.
A lot of people are salivating after his performance against Tampa, so let’s take a look at five plays where he flashed and showed the potential to be a great player for this team moving forward.
Before we start, I want to mention the first drive of the game the Buccaneers had their starting OL in against a Steelers defense which had Mark Barron, Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds as the only projected starters on the field.
Let’s break it down...
Play 1: Reads the run and engages an Offensive Lineman
Devin is lined up right on the 40 yard line, middle of the field.
Pretty solid early play for Devin, he reads the run, identifies his spot, gets to that spot and engages the tackle within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage. He shows right off the bat his ability to turn his speed into power and knocks down a 4 year starter. He seemed caught off guard by the pancake and didn’t bounce up enough to stop the RB from hurdling over him, but the impressive thing here is the ability to hit that tackle that fast, and that hard. It isn’t likely that he’ll be knocking down lineman very often when the games count for real, but he showed the quickness and power to take on a lineman and keep the run contained. With his size that was a legit question, and this play was a pretty good sign he’ll be able to answer that question.
Play 2: Reaction and speed to the play
Devin is the ILB closer to the bottom of the screen.
In this play Devin Bush is responsible for No. 80, OJ Howard. The QB does a good job of looking to OJ to hold Bush there before turning and hitting the screen. To understand how Bush impacts this play, we have to look at the intent. It’s easy to see Barron and Anthony Chickillo running in after Bush, with Chickillo unblocked to make the tackle. You can also see No. 66, 2 year starter Ryan Jensen, react to Bush and change his angle to cut him off. Jensen successfully alters Bush’s angle, and Bush is only able to swipe at Ronald Jones II’s feet. But what’s big about Bush here is that he forced Jensen to turn and engage him, leaving No. 65 alone to deal with 2 defenders. If Bush is replaced with a slower LB on this play he doesn’t get there quick enough, and it’s 2 OL vs. Barron and Chickillo and we are likely looking to a safety to stop a TD, instead of 2nd and 5. He covered OJ Howard, and then took the Center out of the screen.
In my opinion, this is the most exciting play he made all day, because the QB looked him off to keep him out of the play, and Bush’s speed negated that advantage.
Play 3: Man coverage on a TE
Devin is the middle of the three LBs.
This is pure athletic ability. Bush is coming to the TE, and the TE turns right as Bush gets there, putting his body between Bush and the passing window. Devin sees the pass and step in front of the TE to break it up.
In the future he needs to turn that into a Steeler TD, but last year the team didn’t have a LB that could have stepped around and in front of that pass. Plays like this aren’t easy yards for the offense anymore.
Play 4: Covering a TE
Devin Bush is in the middle of the field on the 20 yard line.
In this play the TE is able to head right at Devin, gives him a stutter step and a nice sharp cut outside, a nicely timed and placed pass put the ball in the TE’s hands in front of Devin Bush right near the first down marker. Bush recovers from getting beat in the route to make a great tackle, bringing up 4th and short.
While we’d love to see him do a better job at the stem of the route, it is fantastic to see him recover and show the leg drive to deny the TE the conversion.
Play 5: Finishing what he started
Devin is the middle of the three LBs.
Bush shooting through the gap into the backfield isn’t impressive, we’ve seen a lot of young LBs do that. What stands out here is how he is able to turn on a dime and whip the RB to the ground. This is where Rookie Devin Bush is different from rookie Ryan Shazier. Shazier blew people up, but he didn’t make cuts like that very often as a rookie. Bush doesn’t have Shazier’s straight line explosion, but he has the agility to make plays like this from his first preseason game.
In conclusion, Devin Bush has a long way to go and a lot to learn, but in this one preseason game he reminded me of a young Ray Lewis. Lewis showed up his first season in the NFL and was everywhere on the field, tackling everyone and impacting almost every play. Bush, for one preseason game where he had a backup DL playing a starting OL, was that type of player. He kept a lot of plays from being big plays, took away easy yards plays that this defense gave up last year, and even flashed a bit of play-making while he was at it.
If he continues to play this well through the preseason and into the season, this defense will be significantly better than it was last year.
It is also worth noting that during the first half the ILB’s recorded 13 total tackles, and the Free Safety recorded 2. A greater than 6-1 ratio, which is an incredible improvement on last season’s less than 2/1 ratio for Vince Williams and Jon Bostic vs. Sean Davis.