The Steelers may have found a gem after trading up for Devin Bush. Here’s how Bush outperformed other high-profile linebackers in 2019.
Depending on who you talk to, Devin Bush either impressed as a rookie or really struggled in year one. I can see it both ways. The Steelers rookie linebacker in 2019 surrendered 5 touchdowns in coverage and allowed a 97.4 passer rating, according to Pro Football Reference. However, he also intercepted the ball twice, forced one fumble, and recovered four others.
Fortunately, Bush became more consistent as the season went on. In fact, the Steelers 10th overall pick from last April outperformed some other young, high-profile linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus. Here’s how PFF ranked some of the young talent at linebacker in 2019:
Though Bush’s 62.9 overall grade was good for just 35th in the league at the linebacker position, it’s important to remember the context. Devin Bush turned 21 years old just before his rookie training camp and was one of the youngest relevant players in the NFL last year.
In years past, the Steelers have been afforded the luxury of playing their rookies primarily on special teams and not forcing them to start right away. This is something that players like Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, Lamaar Woodley, and Cameron Heyward were all able to do, as the four of them combined for zero starts as rookies.
However, today’s game has progressed to the point where rookies need to make an impact right away. Despite being so young, Bush showed tremendous growth throughout the season. His overall grade from PFF topped other former first-round picks and young talents like Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch, Roquan Smith, Devin White, and Rashaan Evans in 2019.
Devin White was drafted ahead of Bush in 2019 as he wound up going 5th overall to Tampa Bay. Now, perhaps the Buccaneers wish they would have chosen differently. Even Roquan Smith, who was widely considered one of the best linebacker prospects to come out in years, hit a major slump in his second season with a 52.4 overall grade. Likewise, Leighton Vander Esch was a former Pro Bowler who earned just a 58.6 grade in 9 starts last season.
It’s going to take another year to truly see what we have in Devin Bush, but we’re obviously all hoping for the best. Bush is an extremely gifted athlete with terrific leadership abilities and an impressive family lineage. The sky is the limit to what he might accomplish throughout the course of his NFL career. If Devin Bush turns out to be one of the best linebackers in the league, he could take the Steelers defense to a level it hasn’t seen since the Polamalu and James Harrison-led defenses of the 2000s.