Ranking every Steelers first-round draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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12. Devin Bush, 2019 first-round pick

The Steelers have needed linebacker help for years, and the team honed in on Devin Bush during the 2019 NFL Draft. It required a trade-up, costing the team an additional second and third-round pick to acquire him. Given his athletic profile and instant starting status, the team seemed like they had found their guy.

Bush come out of college a decorated defender. While he didn’t have the traditional size you looked for at linebacker, he had sideline-to-sideline athleticism that made him a threat to secure the tackle when given space. While not his strongest suit, Bush’s athleticism made him a threat in coverage as well.

He showed all of that during his rookie season. Bush was a dynamic athletic presence for the defense and showcased some special plays. Was he perfect? No, but his athletic presence made up for a lot of his issues. He seemed poised for a jump in year two.

He was playing well in his second season until he was injured for the season. The injury seemed to zap him of a lot of the athleticism that made him a capable starter. His third season with the team was a trainwreck, and while he got slightly better in year four, it still wasn’t enough to warrant keeping him around.

Bush was never a great threat to get through blockers because of his size, and once that athleticism left him, Bush lost his ability to play sideline to sideline. The decent play of his first two seasons has been overshadowed by his lackluster last two seasons. He certainly didn’t live up to his first-round billing.

While I didn’t account for players' draft positions due to the Steelers usually picking in the latter half of the first round, I did ding Bush further due to the team having to trade up for him (had Pittsburgh traded back, that also would have factored into his). He isn’t the bottom of the barrel, but Bush’s lack of impact and cost to acquire him made him a poor pick.