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Getting to know the Steelers 2021 UDFAs: Rico Bussey Jr

The former Hawaii and North Texas receiver suffered an ACL injury in 2019 before switching programs.

NCAA Football: Army at North Texas Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected nine players in the 2021 NFL draft, they continued to adding to the roster with eight undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2021 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

The final player on the list is wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr.


Rico Bussey Jr

Wide Receiver
RS Senior
North Texas/Hawaii
6’2” 190 lbs

Playing four seasons at North Texas from 2016 through 2019, Rico Bussey only had two games his senior year before suffering an ACL injury. Playing the 2020 season in Hawaii, Bussey had 159 receptions and 2,215 yards and 22 touchdown receptions between the two programs. His best season came in his junior year at North Texas in 2018 where in 12 games Busey had 67 receptions for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his final year at Hawaii, Bussey had 31 receptions for 274 yards and one touchdown in seven games.


Current Steelers at the position:

Wide Receiver

  1. JuJu Smith-Schuster
  2. Diontae Johnson
  3. Chase Claypool
  4. James Washington
  5. Ray-Ray McCloud
  6. Anthony Johnson
  7. Cody White
  8. Tyler Simmons
  9. Matthew Sexton
  10. Isaiah McKoy
  11. Ricco Bussey

Draft Profiles:

Here is a recent breakdown following the 2020 season from NFL.com:

Overview

Outside receiver with good size and 2018 tape that created some buzz for him while at North Texas. Drops have been an issue throughout his career, though, as Bussey’s ball-tracking and ball skills are both inconsistent. He could create some vertical separation before his 2019 ACL injury, but appeared to be a step slower in 2020, which put more focus on his sparse route tree and below-average hands. We could see athletic improvement another year removed from his injury, but the skill set lacks NFL promise.

Strengths

2018 tape shows off vertical potential.

Speed cuts are consistent and sharp.

Feels the boundary and gears down for quarterback.

Willing to get physical against press.

Catch-to-run transition happens instantly.

Good wiggle and burst to elude first tackler.

Weaknesses

Appeared to lose a step in 2020 coming off ACL surgery.

Hips won’t allow for quick sink-and-stop on comebacks.

Camps in one spot rather than working back to the ball.

Career is full of dropped passes and contested catch losses.

Slow getting his hands catch-ready on slants.

Has trouble maintaining ball tracking to catch completion.

Questionable hand-eye coordination on deep throws.

Here is another breakdown courtesy of si.com:

Overview:

Silky smooth with a clear understanding of how to attack leverage, Rico Bussey Jr. finished out his career with the University of Hawaii after dominating at North Texas for the majority of his college career. Bussey dominates in the intermediate level of the field with his smooth breaks with notable acceleration. He routinely plucks the football at the highest point, boasting both quick and strong hands. Bussey extends and plucks, showing excellent concentration and ability to win through contact. While staying both calm and controlled, Bussey has a lot more speed than he might get credit for. He is an easy route runner who can create instant separation on various levels of the field. After suffering a knee injury that stole most of his 2019 campaign, Bussey looks like he may have lost a tad bit of his explosiveness. Even with slightly less juice, Bussey is an attractive all around athletic profile to affect the game in a variety of roles. Underrated mostly due to the situation, Bussey is one of the more talented wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class that most don’t know. With his combination of smoothness, route running and hand strength, a slot on early Day Three is not out of the question for Bussey.

Background:

Raised outside of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Two-star recruit according to 247Sports. Earned his degree but his major is unknown. Played in 6 games as a freshman. Played in 13 games as a sophomore. Played in 12 games as a junior. Played in 2 games before suffering a season-ending injury and redshirt. Transferred from North Texas to Hawaii as a graduate. Dealt with a torn ACL (2019).

NFLPA Bowl Note:

For the first time this season, wide receiver RICO BUSSEY found the endzone for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in their week 13 loss to the Spartans of San Jose State. Though the outcome for the team was disappointing, Bussey continues to show glimpses of what made him such a prolific receiver during his prior stint at North Texas, leading the Warriors on Saturday with eight receptions for 69 yards and the touchdown. At 6-2, 190 pounds, the Lawton, OK native is a true vertical threat with outstanding speed and ball skills who made a living in 2018 to the tune of 12 receiving touchdowns and over 1,000 yards receiving. A knee injury cut short his 2019 campaign after five games but Bussey is remaining busy this year and looking to add to his touchdown total in the season finale vs UNLV.

Finally, here is on last breakdown of Bussey from thedraftnetwork.com:

Rico Bussey is a dynamic and explosive athlete who is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He is a very good athlete in regard to his quickness and short-area agility. He is a willing stalk blocker in the run game. In the passing game, he is dynamic and explosive as a route-runner. He doesn’t appear to be a natural hands-catcher and has instances of allowing the ball into his body, but he is always a threat for the big play. He may also add value in the return game, as well.

Ideal Role: No. 4 wide receiver with special teams upside.

Scheme Fit: Any offensive scheme.


Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Rico Bussey, no evaluation is complete without film:

(WARNING: Audio could contain explicit material)


Previous Breakdowns: