Devin Bush carries a mantle that after the devastating injury of Ryan Shazier is probably heavier than anyone else’s on this defense. Add in that Shazier was already a two-time Pro Bowler in his first four years of a promising NFL career, and that Bush himself was the 10th pick, the expectations seem daunting.
Bush has the gifted talent & IQ of the game to be a playmaker in this league, but the surrounding depth remains the biggest question, and quite frankly, the most important one the Steelers will have to answer. Who will play beside Bush, and do the Steelers gear themselves to an even heavier dose of 6 DBs on the field to mask this issue?
There’s Vince “Vincenzo” Williams. The eight-year veteran that has shadowed any inabilities with maximum effort & heart, bringing grit to a team and city deeply enriched with it. Only playing more than 70% of defensive snaps in just two years of his career from 2017-18, and now pushing 30+ years old, the love him is unquestionable, but preference may be a rotational role. And that’s not to admit that he couldn’t do it, because whenever playing next to and even after Shazier fell, Williams in that timeline recorded at least 4.0+ sacks, 75+ tackles, 8 TFL, 10 QB hits, & 1 INT in each season.
So, is there a good probability that Williams could see more than just the 36.53% of defensive snaps as he did in 2019? A chance with some definite stock too it, another name that can also see his way into being the full-time starter, is the Akron alum, Ulysses Gilbert III.
As athleticism was something people craved of Bush’s game, Gilbert doesn’t fall too far behind with the added speed he brings to this LB corps. A 4.5 guy that can pursuit the ball well & can drop into coverage, Gilbert is entering his second year with the Steelers. Reported by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, his back injury that allowed him to appear in only seven games has been an altering experience for him, one that he never expected & still has him rehabbing today in his own home:
"“It was pretty tough. For this to be the first time you are so close to your dream, to be able to play and have it taken away by injury, it really does suck. It’s kind of like a mental thing. It messes you up a little bit. You are playing one day and then the next day you wake up and it’s all gone. Plus, it was the first time I have been away from football for that long”."
The under regarded rehab process & reality that NFL players have to endure, Gilbert continued with how his teammates created the feeling of brotherhood for him by coming around him every step of the way. Potentially, one that could extend out on the field defensively, rather than just on special teams where he was beginning to make his presence felt.