When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Devin Bush, they were hoping to get the most dynamic inside linebacker the organization has had since Ryan Shazier patrolled the middle of the defense.
In 2019 fans saw shades of this dynamic playmaking ability, and in 2020 it was even more noticeable until Bush tore his ACL in a game vs. the Cleveland Browns. The injury didn’t just derail his season, it derailed all the progress he has made as a professional.
Fast forward to the 2021 regular season and Bush has been the fan base’s favorite defender to target when things don’t go well. Can’t stop the run, fans will often point to Bush. Defense struggling with running backs or tight ends in coverage, fans will point to Bush. It comes with the territory, and the fans aren’t the only people who see Bush playing below the line. The folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF) have repeatedly graded Bush as the worst defender on the Steelers on more than one occasion.
Throughout it all, fans have wanted to know what truly is the problem with Bush. Is it just his knee? Is it mental? Is it a combination of things? Bush spoke with media via Zoom Monday and talked about how he feels his season is going, and where he feels his career is headed after this season.
“I think my first year and my second year were definitely two good years,” Bush told reporters. “My third year (this season) was a year I’ve never experienced before, especially coming back from an injury like that. It was my first time going through an injury like that, first time getting surgery, first time doing rehab and first time being away from the game for a full year. So it definitely was a learning experience for me. I had a lot of ups and downs, a lotta good times, a lot of bad times. But I think I’m still the same player, I feel like I’m the same player and I know I’m the same player. The stat sheet may not reflect that but nobody out here on the Steelers football team is playing up to their potential.
“Early in the season it was definitely a learning process for me just getting my mind back in football mode. Towards the middle of the season I was going through some more mental issues of just being out there and knowing I had to make plays, and winning was my biggest thing. Up until this point I think I’m settling pretty good.
“I got a lot of that stuff to build off of, a lot of things during the season that I did good, a lot of things during the season that I didn’t do so well. We always have something to work on, so it just gives me a map of where I need to start and what I need to work on.
“My first day of training camp until now I think I progressed tremendously. Obviously, nobody on the Steelers is playing up to their potential, nobody’s playing their best football right now. I’m not gonna sit here and single myself out or anybody else out because at the end of the day we’re a team. We just gotta keep building. We got a lot of work to do right now. We have a lot of work to do next year.”
Has the injury left Bush gun shy when attacking the line of scrimmage and invading the opposition's backfield? According to the former Michigan Wolverine, the mental aspect of the game is one of the biggest challenges he is dealing with currently.
“The biggest part is mental,” Bush said. “If I had to make a good example it would be like, if you get bit by a dog who’s to say the next time you go pet a dog?”
The Steelers organization now has a difficult decision on their hands in regards to Bush’s 5th year option. The team will have to decipher if they want to pick up Bush’s option, or allow him to hit free agency after his fourth season as a professional. If the team chooses to not pick up Bush’s option, he would join the likes of Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns and now Terrell Edmunds as first round picks who haven’t had their option picked up. The decision won’t be an easy one, despite what the fan base might suggest.
In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 of the 2021 regular season.