The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a major ‘cog in the wheel’ on defense, but how big of a blow is it to their chances in 2020?
With the various reports coming in about Devin Bush, the Steelers second-year ILB, needing season-ending surgery for a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), my initial thought was one of disbelief. It goes without saying that I hate to see any player get injured, but when one of our players gets injured, it hurts.
After I got over the shock of the reports that we would potentially be without Bush for the remainder of the 2020 season, I then started to look at this more objectively. Again, it’s terrible that Bush got injured, so keep that in mind as we progress through this discussion, albeit it will be a short one in comparison to some of our other discussions.
So, let’s objectively review how big of a blow the loss of Bush will be for the Steelers defense.
The Steelers ‘D’ lost a starting ILB but may have more options as replacements
Yes, the defense lost a starting inside linebacker and for a 3-4 base defense, losing a starting ILB is a big deal; however, playing sub-package defense has become more of normality than a rarity. Inherent in sub-package defense is the ability for the ILBs to be effective in coverage.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, in two NFL seasons, Bush has allowed passes to be completed at a rate of 67.6 percent in 2019 and 70 percent in 2020. Neither of those two completions against percentages is particularly good. Of those completions, 5 went for TDs in 2019 and one went for a TD so far in 2020. Whether or not those completions came when we were in base defense or sub-package defense is immaterial.
The fact of the matter is Bush has not been very good in coverage. So what do the Steelers do to replace his lack of effectiveness in coverage? I say Pittsburgh does something perhaps unconventional and try a Safety at the ILB. Here are my thoughts: In general, safeties are inherently better in coverage than linebackers.