Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Offers Explanation For Devin Bush’s ‘Spotty’ Play

Devin Bush

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for a touchdown as Devin Bush of the Pittsburgh Steelers defends on November 21, 2021.

On Tuesday afternoon Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference in which he looked ahead to Sunday afternoon’s AFC North showdown versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Not surprisingly, he was asked how he would characterize the play of third-year inside linebacker Devin Bush Jr., who the Steelers selected No. 10 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Per Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Tomlin said Bush’s performance has been “spotty at times,” and attributed his struggles to his return from the torn ACL he suffered last October during a game against the Cleveland Browns.

Tomlin pointed out that other players in similar circumstances—including one on his own team, that being offensive tackle Zach Banner (torn ACL, September 14, 2020)—have been on the field much less than Bush has this season. He also specifically mentioned New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and ex-Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, the latter of whom has had a very disappointing first season with the Tennessee Titans and was recently placed on injured reserve, albeit with an abdominal injury.

“We want more from (Bush) and he wants more from himself but we are appreciative that he has put himself in a position to be available and that he is playing as much as he is,” concluded Tomlin, before highlighting how Bush was recently named the Steelers’ 2021 Ed Block Courage Award winner for his ability to come back from his injury.

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Devin Bush Sr. Went on Sports Radio to Defend His Son

Through it all, Devin Bush Jr. has been frequently criticized on social media, especially in recent weeks, with fans posting video clips highlighting missed tackles and an obvious inability to shed blocks. That includes two plays from Sunday night’s 41-37 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the first of which resulted in a rushing touchdown on the part of running back Austin Ekeler.

The second resulted in yet another rushing touchdown on the part of Ekeler.

Bush received even more criticism for a missed tackle that led to a long rushing touchdown during the November 15 game against the Detroit Lions, critical points in what ended up as a 16-16 tie.

Criticism got so heated that last week Devin Bush Sr. called 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to defend his son’s play. As summarized by Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Bush Sr.’s point was that no one should blame his son unless they know what his responsibilities are in the team’s defense,” having reminded us that Bush Sr. played eight seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns.

Devin Bush’s Past Misadventures on Social Media

To be fair, Devin Bush Jr. was a lot more impactful prior to his knee injury. For example, during his rookie season in 2019 he recorded 109 tackles (72 solo), including nine tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries. And earlier this season, defensive lineman Chris Wormley publicly defended Bush’s play, pointing out that “it takes a little bit to come back to full strength” after a significant knee injury, as Wormley is well aware.

But fans may be less inclined to cut Bush any slack, thanks to a bizarre Twitterstorm this past summer in which he: shared an extremely disconcerting cat video; trolled Steelers supporters; and questioned whether his critics were “real fans.” That prompted Steelers captain Cam Heyward to admit that Bush “can be a real knucklehead” at times, and that it’s part of his job to try to help the former first-round pick mature.

Regardless, during this coming offseason the Steelers will have to decide if they are going to pick up the fifth-year option on Bush’s rookie contract. Per, Bush is being paid a base salary of $2,210,616 this year and has a total cap value of $5,146,846. In 2022 he is scheduled to earn $3,068,424 and will carry a salary cap number of $6,004,654. While the cost of his fifth-year option has yet to be determined, it’s safe to say that he would receive a significant raise as compared to prior years. Consider that the fifth-year option on Terrell Edmunds’ rookie contract would have cost the Steelers $6.573 million in 2022, had the team elected to pick it up. Meanwhile, Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is scheduled to earn $10.612 million on his fifth-year option in 2022.

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