After the 2022 NFL Draft is over, the Pittsburgh Steelers have some important decisions to make. One of the biggest will be whether or not they decide to pick up Devin Bush’s 5th year option on his rookie contract. Bush has had an up and down few years with the Steelers, to the point many have described him as a first round bust.
In his rookie season, Bush looked to be living up to the promise he showed coming out of Michigan. The Steelers saw Bush as a the next Ryan Shazier and leader on the defense. Certainly some analysts hailed him as a generational talent and leader.
In that 2019 season Bush recorded some impressive stats: 109 combined tackles, which breaks down as 72 solo tackles and 37 assisted tackles, nine tackles for a loss, two QB hits, two interceptions and four passes defensed. In his sophomore year he looked to be continuing this upward trend until an ACL injury in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns derailed those plans.
In 2021, Bush returned to action and was not the same player he had been previously, but did fans expected too much? Recovering from an ACL injury takes time, and while some fans compared Bush’s injury to Joe Burrow’s, this is not a fair comparison. A quarterback doesn’t have the same stresses and strains on their knee compared to an inside linebacker. Bush has to constantly sprint, change direction, twist and turn. I doubt he had the trust he needed in his knee. Moreover, it often takes at least a calendar year for a player like Bush to overcome an ACL injury. Certainly, as the year progressed Bush improved his performances and became a more influential part of the defense.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about Bush and the future. First, Bush is still young at 23 years old. There are still many more years of development to come from Bush. Next, the addition of Brian Flores to the coaching staff will help Bush improve and become the linebacker he is capable of being. Flores did a fabulous job with the Patriots linebackers, and he can have the same impact on the Steelers linebackers.
One of the biggest issues last season was the defensive line and their inability to keep the second level clean. Too often last year the opponent’s offensive linemen were able to get to Bush and Joe Schobert. Bush doesn’t have physical size to take on and beat offensive linemen, and nor should he, that’s not his game. With the likely return of Tyson Alualu and possibly Stephon Tuitt, this will lead to improvement in the Steelers defensive line, giving Bush more opportunities to play his game and to show he is the linebacker the Steelers thought he would be when they moved up to draft him. Alualu has the physicality to not only stop the offensive linemen getting to the next level, but is also an excellent run defender, this will benefit Bush.
The acquisition of Myles Jack could also benefit Bush. Many have stated they feel the Steelers need a buck linebacker like Vince Williams; however, with the speed and physicality Jack brings this will help Bush’s game. Although some will disagree with me, it gives the Steelers linebacker pair a similar lineup to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker pair of Lavonte David and Devin White. The Steelers inside linebackers will bring speed, physicality and can wreak havoc on opponents.
Furthermore, Bush has been working hard this offseason to further improve his strength, fitness and conditioning. Videos released online show Bush working hard and looking to be in better shape than last season. A great cause for optimism.
The decision on Bush’s 5th year option must be made by the May 2nd, and his one year option is a projected $10.9 million. If they don’t pick it up, Bush will have the 2022 season to prove to the Steelers, or another team, he is worth the money and a new contract. Sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate, I think Bush has the potential to have a comeback season this year, and because of that I would pick up his 5th y ear option.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.