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Devin Bush should act as a cautionary tale for how we react to the NFL Draft

Devin Bush is a great example of why we shouldn’t get too excited or depressed over Steelers draft picks...but we continue to do it, anyway.

NFL: DEC 24 Raiders at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Oh yeah, I remember that guy.”

That was my reaction to a rumor that the Steelers were a candidate to trade for Mekhi Becton last summer.

I spent the spring of 2020 studying Becton, an offensive tackle from Louisville, in anticipation of that year’s NFL Draft. Becton was part of a class of offensive tackle prospects that included the likes of Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Willis and Tristan Wirfs. These tackles accounted for four of the top 13 picks of that year’s draft, beginning with Thomas going fourth to the Giants and ending with Wirfs being selected by the Buccaneers at pick number 13.

Becton was drafted 11th by the Jets. That was the last time I really thought of him until those rumors surfaced last summer.

Becton had a promising rookie year in 2020; he started 13 games and garnered decent-enough reviews.

Unfortunately, Becton suffered a serious knee injury early in his sophomore season and only appeared in one game in 2021. Becton sustained another serious knee injury last summer and missed the entire 2022 campaign.

Becton has tallied a total of 48 snaps over his past two seasons and is now being talked about as the biggest draft bust in Jets history.

Every NFL Draft has plenty of Mekhi Bectons, which is why it’s always so funny when the media and even the fans talk in absolutes about the annual crop of prospects.

The fact is, we simply don’t know how most of these draft prospects will pan out once they enter the NFL.

I don’t know what Jets fans thought about the selection of Becton—the 2020 draft was done in isolation thanks to the COVID pandemic—but I do know how Steelers fans reacted to their favorite team’s top pick one year earlier.

I was out at a bar with some friends on the night of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the roof just about blew off the place when word began to circulate that the Steelers had traded up to the 10th spot and were about to select Devin Bush, an inside linebacker from Michigan.

Mean Joe Greene appeared on screen to make the pick official, and chants of “Here We Go, Steelers!” could be heard all throughout the bar. You take the reactions in that establishment and multiply them countless times, and let’s just say Steeler Nation was feeling pretty darn ecstatic that night.

There is no use in rehashing the entire Bush timeline, other than to say he suffered a torn ACL halfway through his second season and never came close to living up to expectations.

The fan reactions were much more polarizing two years earlier when Pittsburgh selected linebacker T.J. Watt with the 30th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nobody knew what to make of J.J. Watt’s younger brother, a player who began his college career as a tight end, becoming the Steelers' latest first-round pick.

To say the initial opinions on Watt were mixed would be an understatement; you can listen to some of the comments from fans that night on the Steelers' official Facebook page, thanks to the hosts of a popular Pittsburgh morning radio show who read them on the air the next morning .

Again, no need to rehash Watt’s career up to this point, other than to say it speaks for itself.

Moving on to the Steelers' recent free-agent signing of Keanu Neal, a veteran safety, formerly of the Falcons, Cowboys and Buccaneers.

I couldn’t figure out the fan excitement over the Neal deal. That was mainly because I thought it was a re-signing. Why did I think that? Because I got Neal confused with Karl Joseph, a veteran safety who spent the past two years on the Steelers practice squad, their active roster and, ultimately, their Injured Reserve list.

Why did I get these guys mixed up? Maybe it was because both of their first names begin with a K. Maybe it was because they both play safety. Maybe it was because they were both highly-touted safety prospects who were selected three picks apart in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Or maybe it’s because they’ve both had underwhelming careers up to this point.

Joseph played his first four years with his original team, the Raiders, who decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. Joseph played for the Browns in 2020. He re-signed with the Raiders in the spring of 2021 before being released that summer. Pittsburgh scooped him up, where he had zero impact over two seasons.

Karl Joseph’s Wikipedia page now lists him as a free agent.

Things have gone slightly better for Neal, who was selected by the Falcons with the 17th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Neal spent his first five seasons in Atlanta and even made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Unfortunately for Neal, he couldn’t cash in on his second contract in the 2021 offseason and signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys.

Neal spent the 2022 campaign with the Buccaneers, after signing a one-year deal for just under $1.3 million last offseason.

Neal is now a member of the Steelers' secondary and will be more of a role player in 2022, alongside fellow safety, Damontae Kazee.

What is my overall point?

I guess it’s that we probably shouldn’t get too high or too low over draft choices. We shouldn’t smash things that are too expensive or celebrate as if we just won the lottery.

Or maybe the point of this article is moot because we’re likely going to do those things and more when the Steelers make their selections in the 2023 NFL Draft.

If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

If we haven’t figured out by now that the annual NFL Draft is far from an exact science, we probably never will.