In recent days and weeks, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush Jr. has been the focal point of criticism surrounding the team’s defense, with pointed critiques coming from fans, media and former Steelers players alike.
But one former teammate, inside linebacker Vince Williams, came to Bush’s defense on Tuesday, posting a series of Tweets in which he posited possible explanations for the former first-round pick’s struggles, which have contributed to Pittsburgh allowing 41 points in each of its last two games.
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Devin Bush Tore His ACL in October 2020
For starters, Williams noted that Bush, 23, suffered a torn ACL less than 14 months ago, and that two of the team’s starting defensive linemen—Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu—have missed all or almost all of this season. He also reminds observers that Bush’s position coach, ex-Steelers linebacker Jerry Olsavsky, lost his wife in mid-October, prompting Olsavsky to take a leave of absence from the team.
Williams went on to emphasize that Bush’s game “has always centered around explosion and power,” and that he’s still at least several months away from getting back to the “high level of cutting and exploding that’s needed to look like a Top 10 pick.”
Williams isn’t the first to highlight the challenges of coming back from a torn ACL. Steelers defensive end Chris Wormley referred to Bush’s “big” knee injury when he publicly defended the former No. 10 overall pick in mid-October. And just last week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that the knee has been a contributing factor for Bush’s “spotty” play this season.
Vince Williams: Bush’s Effort ‘Could And Should be Better’
Williams does acknowledge that Bush’s effort has been subpar, but essentially goes on to ask for patience on the part of fans and media, noting that a crisis in confidence only makes it harder for Bush to get out of the slump in which he finds himself.
“This is obviously bigger than Devin and the media is using him as a scapegoat. It’s easy to pick on an underperforming top pick. Let’s not bury someone pre maturely because it’s convenient,” concludes Williams.
Indeed, the Steelers can’t afford to give up on Bush at this stage—and at this age—although the club would no doubt like to see the arrow pointing in the right direction before the end of the season. In part, that’s because the organization will have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option during the offseason. The cost of that option is yet to be determined but it’s safe to say that it would be a considerable increase over the $2,210,616 salary he is earning this season and the $3,068,424 he is scheduled to earn in 2022, as per overthecap.com.
Devin Bush’s Summer Twitterstorm Re-Visited
At the same time, Bush did himself no favors this past summer when he took to Twitter and shared a disconcerting cat video, trolled Steelers fans and questioned whether his critics were “real fans”—part of a days-long Twitterstorm that caused Steelers captain Cam Heyward to admit that Bush “can be a knucklehead” sometimes.
To get back in the good graces of fans, he’ll likely need to play at least as well as he did pre-injury. During his rookie year, for instance, Bush recorded 109 total tackles (72 solo), along with two interceptions, one sack, a forced fumble and four fumble recoveries.
As for Williams, you may recall that he retired in mid-July, a decision that came as a surprise, as the team re-signed him on April 15, 2021, a month after the Steelers terminated his contract in a cost-cutting move.
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