When Pittsburgh Steelers fans think of Devin Bush after the 2021 season, most have one word come to mind: Bust.
To be fair, that isn’t necessarily Bush’s fault, considering his ACL injury in 2020 which ended his second season prematurely. Nonetheless, with Bush coming off a very mediocre season it is safe to say 2022 is a make-or-break season for the former Michigan Wolverine.
For anyone who has ever rehabilitated a major injury, or possibly worked with someone who has worked their way back from a serious injury, you know the focus which goes into getting that injury healed and ready to return to work. In Bush’s case, ready to return to the football field.
The difference between the 2021 offseason and the 2022 offseason is drastic. Last season Bush was still going through the rehabilitation for his knee, and when the focus is primarily on that singular target, it can leave the rest of a usual offseason training regimen being minimized or pushed to the side.
There is a reason why athletes talk about a return from an injury like the one Bush sustained is well over a full calendar year. Once you rehab the knee and get back on the field, it won’t be until the next season, coming off a normal offseason, when you feel as if you’re back.
That is exactly where Bush is right now entering 2022. He should be able to prepare himself as he usually does for a football season, something he couldn’t do last season. During the season, Bush was able to reflect on how far he has come battling back from his knee injury.
“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 is 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.”
When you hear a professional athlete talking about getting their mind back, it can be a frightening thing for the organization. If your mind isn’t right, it can have you always playing a step behind. To be honest, Bush didn’t shy away from the fact he was a bit gun shy when returning to the field in 2021.
“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?”
Obviously Bush is referring to after being bit by a dog, you might be timid to reach your hand down and pet another dog. If this was his 2021 season, you would think the 2022 season could see him playing without the hesitation which was a regular facet of his game last year.
For the Steelers, the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time in Bush’s tenure with the team. After his rocky season, the team has just a few months before having to make a decision on his 5th year option as a former first round pick. If the team picks up the option and Bush picks up where he left off in 2021, most would view it as a giant waste of money. If the team doesn’t pick up the option and Bush returns to form, he could be pricing himself out of Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2023. There are obviously scenarios where the Steelers pick up his option and he plays well, and vice versa, but this just amplifies Bush’s 2022 season.
It is a make-or-break type season for Devin Bush, and how he will respond is anyone’s guess at this point.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.