When the Pittsburgh Steelers moved up in the 2019 NFL Draft, it was a bold move that the team seldom takes a risk in doing. It caught a lot of people off guard. What makes a prospect worth trading into the top 10 of the first round? The simple answer: a playmaker and difference-maker. The Steelers certainly pulled the trigger on a player that fits that mold when they selected Devin Bush.
The Steelers' defense had been languishing under the weight of inconsistency, a lack of turnover ability, and not being something that opponents were hesitant to gameplan around. There were pieces that were still critical components, but the defense - as a whole - was struggling due to parts that kept falling off the machine.
Recently, I wrote a piece about how the Steelers defense is better than many people believe. It took some fans a while to get on board with that idea because they were seeing the Steelers lose close games early this season. And just this week, contributor Mike Pelaia echoed many of the sentiments I shared in his piece on how the Steelers finally have the defense fans have been waiting for and added keys of his own.
The player that has been the biggest difference-maker on this 2019 squad is the rookie that Pittsburgh took a big chance on - Devin Bush - and so far their investment is paying off in dividends much earlier than could possibly be predicted. And while he's been putting up some big numbers in other defensive stats, the one that stands out is in takeaways.
A mere six games into his professional career, Bush has provided a spark to an area of the Steelers defense that was sorely missing: takeaways. As the Steelers prepare to enter Week 8 (after the bye in Week 7), Bush has some impressive numbers to boast about.
No player in the NFL has as many fumble recoveries as Bush has with four. In fact, no other defensive player in the league has more than two outside of New Orleans Saints safety Vonn Bell.
Bush also has two interceptions on the season. By comparison, only safety Devin McCourty (New England Patriots, 4), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (New York Giants, 3), Jamie Collins Sr. (Patriots, 3), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (Washington Redskins, 3), cornerback James Bradberry (Carolina Panthers, 3), and safety Kevin Byard (Tennessee Titans, 3) have more. Yes, there are several players that currently have two interceptions, but if Bush were to continue the pace he is on, he could log 4-5 total on the season. More if he were to continue to be in the right place at the right time as he was in the play below.
Last season the Steelers had 15 total takeaways in 17 weeks. Thanks to Bush, the Steelers have 14 through the first seven weeks of regular-season play. With Bush getting involved in six of those takeaways, the rookie linebacker is on pace to push for 16 before this year's regular-season ends.
"(Bush is) just going up the next step, and that's what I told him. I'm not surprised that he's made plays." - Steelers inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky
Only Bush, (Vonn) Bell (Saints), Bashaud Breeland (Kansas City Chiefs), Brandon Carr (Baltimore Ravens), Ndamukong Suh (Tampa Bay Buccanneers), Kyle Van Noy (Patriots), Markus Golden (Giants), Reggie Ragland (Chiefs), KeKe Coutee (Houston Texans), and Brian Burns (Panthers), have returned a fumble for a touchdown this season. No other defenders in the entire league can say that.
Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Bush became just the second Steelers rookie since the NFL, AFL merger in 1970 to record a touchdown on a fumble return and an interception in the same game. In the 50 seasons since the merger, only 11 rookie players have accomplished that feat and just four Steelers players.
Steelers up 14-0 after a quarter.
And a little nugget: Per ESPN Stats and Info: Devin Bush is the first Steelers player with a TD, interception and fumble recovery in the same game since Deshea Townsend in 2003 Week 16, also vs the Chargers.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 14, 2019
Bush has been contributing big in other ways as well. He leads the team in tackles with 52; ranking fifth in the league and the most by a Steelers rookie since 2000. And dropping back in coverage?
"PFF stat for Bush: in coverage, opposing teams have a 75.2 passer rating when throwing to a man whom Bush is covering, which is the 7th-best mark among 56 qualifying inside linebackers in the NFL." - SCU contributor Zach Metkler
Bush's performance against the Chargers earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for Week 6.
.@_Dbush11 has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week‼️
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 16, 2019
Numbers don't lie, or so the saying goes. If that's the case, it would be a travesty if the digits Bush is putting on the NFL record books don't earn him strong consideration for Rookie Defensive Player of the Year and even NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
(Note: Stats verified through Pro Football Focus, ESPN Stats and Info, and Pro Football Reference)