Devin Bush has had a rough start to his young career.
And now a Steelers legend has piled on, calling for Pittsburgh to “cut bait” on Bush, a fourth-year linebacker.
The pressure was on from the moment the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to select the four-star recruit out of Michigan 10th overall in 2019. Bush was facing the monumental task of replacing Ryan Shazier, who sustained a devastating career-ending spinal contusion in December 2017.
Bush showed flashes in his rookie season, registering 109 total tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack. He more than impressed with four recovered fumbles (one for a 20-yard touchdown) and two interceptions off four defended passes.
When his sophomore season rolled around, expectations were through the roof.
“He came in great shape that indicates he has an understanding of the challenges that lie ahead,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Bush in an August 2020 press conference. “The experience that he gained last year is going to be an asset to him moving forward, but I’m particularly looking for dramatic improvements from a communication standpoint because it comes with the nature of his position.”
In a show of confidence, the Steelers extended to Bush the green dot — a sticker placed on the player’s helmet entrusted with relaying the play from the sideline and setting the defense. Five games into the 2020 season, Bush tore his ACL on a non-contact play versus the Cleveland Browns, ending a season that started with so much hope.
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Not the Same
Less than a year removed from the injury, Bush returned to the field with expectations of a bounce-back season. Unfortunately, the bounce-back never came. He often looked lost, and former Steelers questioned whether his heart was even in the game.
One month into the 2021 season, former Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats told 93.7 The Fan, “So every time we bring up Devin – every time we bring up a player that might be struggling – we always want to point to these other things, we want to justify. And it’s like no … your tape is going to tell me everything I need to know. So don’t tell me you want to make plays when I cut the tape on you. You’re not showing that effort.
“Don’t tell me that you want to make this tackle. When I cut the tape on, you’re doing everything that is counterproductive to making a tackle,” Moats said.
Moats, who noted that Bush was moving well, said it wasn’t his knee that was affecting his game, it was his head. He was “disengaging from blocks” and reacting too late during plays, Moats said.
Bush acknowledged late in the season that he had been struggling with mental hurdles since returning from the ACL injury. “The biggest part is mental,” Bush told reporters on December 13. “If I had to make a good example, it would be like, if you get bit by a dog, who’s to say the next time you go to pet a dog.”
Bush ended his third season with 70 tackles, four quarterback hits and two sacks.
Harsh Words from Hoge
Again, Bush faces an uphill battle heading into his fourth season. The Steelers declined to exercise Bush’s fifth-year option, so he is expected to hit the free agent market in March 2023. If he produces a career season, the Steelers could choose to re-sign him. It’s more likely that he’s wearing a jersey of a different color in 2023.
Bush hasn’t even stepped foot onto the grass of Heinz Field for what appears to be his final season in Pittsburgh — and already he has his detractors.
Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge watches film for Playbook on Steelers.com and intimated he had seen enough footage from Bush’s two complete seasons to pass judgment. Hoge’s take on Bush was a harsh one, blasting the linebacker on a June 3 guest spot on 93.7 The Fan.
“I just think you gotta cut bait there. He is who he is,” Hoge said plainly. “He doesn’t play with great instincts. I don’t care if he’s a first-rounder. He’s not a very good football player. He doesn’t play smart. He doesn’t play fast. He doesn’t even play with great leverage and technique when he does, and he hurts you. There’s nothing he does that helps you.”