The Steelers must put every player on defense in a position that caters to his strengths
When the Steelers traded up in the 2019 draft to select Devin Bush, LB out of Michigan, I was cautiously optimistic that he would fill the dual role of both a ‘run-stopper’ and a ‘cover LB’. For the most part, Bush acquitted himself quite well in his rookie season.
Bush started 15 out of 16 games, posted 1 sack, 4 passes defended, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble, and 4 fumble recoveries. I would say that is tremendous production for a rookie. There was, however, one glaring hole in Bush’s game in 2019-pass coverage.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, Bush was targeted 68 times and gave up 46 completions, which translates to a 67.6% completion percentage against; five of those 46 completions went for TDs. That’s not good. The ‘square peg’ in this scenario is that Bush is at a disadvantage in coverage because of his height. Look, I am only 5′ 6″, so I would not be able to cover any NFL player.
The reality is that every LB in the Steelers defense may be asked to drop in coverage depending on what’s called on a given play, but not every LB is capable of being effective in coverage, so why put Bush, for example, in a position where is he is going to fail 67.6% of the time? Makes no sense to me.
For those of you who are not old enough to remember the Steelers teams of the 1970s, our Hall of Fame Middle Linebacker, Jack Lambert, arguably the greatest MLB in NFL history, on most occasions, was taken out on obvious passing downs in favor of Loren Toews, who was a better ‘cover LB’ than Lambert.
The problem with the Steelers defense in 2019 was that we really had no LB whose strength was pass coverage, so, again, why call a play that would expose that weakness? I realize you have to keep the opposing offense guessing, but it just seemed too risky to me.
Let’s move on to the third pitfall to avoid.