Steel City Underground presents our 2019 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
Friday, August 9th, 2019 was the highly anticipated debut of the Steelers first round draft pick this season, linebacker Devin Bush.
Bush made headlines in the offseason as a potential target for Pittsburgh, who had been seeking a replacement at their starting inside linebacker position since an injury to former starter Ryan Shazier, who was left unable to walk and lucky to not have been paralyzed on the field back in late 2017.
Failing to find a suitable fill-in for Shazier in 2018, the Steelers were linked to two names in the 2019 NFL Draft: LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush. But to have a shot at either, each projected to be drafted within the top ten picks, the Steelers would have to move up via a trade with one of the teams holding those picks.
In the end, the Steelers would pull the trigger, making a deal with the Denver Broncos to jump from pick 20 up to pick 10. With Bush selected and now a member of the Black and Gold, the next test was to see how he would fare on the field.
That opportunity would come in early August’s first preseason game, following a couple of weeks of training camp sessions where fans would get a glimpse of what was to come. Confidentially, fans would also get a preview of the other “Devin”, Devin White, who was taken four selections earlier by Pittsburgh’s opponent that day, Tampa Bay.
Tampa also brought with them another man linked to the Steel City, former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Even with a majority of key contributors sitting out the Week 1 exhibition game, there were plenty of highlights from other players to whet the appetite of Steelers Nation. The main course, of course, was Devin Bush’s performance: no one had a bigger showing in the Steelers first “game” of the 2019 season.
Bush finished the evening with 10 tackles, 7 of those solo, plus a pass break up that could have been a pick six. He flashed greatness on a huge fourth down stop, where he saw and hit a hole quickly to knife in to the backfield, and force a turnover on downs. Bush would play 40 of the defense’s whopping 83 plays!
While Bush had an impressive showing, another young man was cutting his teeth and showing fans would he could be capable of. James Washington exploded onto the scene and showed everyone the same chops he was displaying during camp. He would finish his early evening with 4 catches for 84 yards, including a 43-yard long and an 8-yard connection with his former college teammate, QB Mason Rudolph.
Speaking of the quarterbacks, an ongoing camp battle for the second spot on the depth chart, between Rudolph and 2018 backup Joshua Dobbs, heated up, as both quarterbacks completed 5-of-8 passes for nearly identical yards. Rudolph would get the edge with two touchdown passes to Dobbs’ none, while neither turned the ball over.
However, also turning heads was the other quarterback who played, Devlin Hodges, who went 8-for-14 for 79 yards and a touchdown pass of his own.
Overall, it was Dobbs who looked a bit lost – often resorting to using his feet to make plays during each of his two drives, as patchwork offensive line play was unable to hold up against some of the Buccaneers starters. He still finished the day with a solid 14-play, 73-yard drive which ended in a field goal, but that drive too had a bad pass picked off, only to see the interception overturned due to penalties on the same play.
The running game also featured the debut of fourth-round pick Benny Snell, who was only able to churn out a 2.0 yards-per-carry average with a five-yard long run. He would finish with 13 carries for only 26 yards, while Dobbs led all ball carriers with 44.
On defense, another rookie, Isaiah Buggs, recovered a fumble and appeared to be disruptive during his time on the field, as was undrafted OLB Ola Adeniyi. Rookie Ulysses Gilbert racked up 1.5 sacks, and another undrafted Toledo outside linebacker, Tuzar Skipper, made a showing with a sack of his own.
Gilbert and Skipper would also get to opposing quarterbacks four times each.
Another camp battle that everyone had their eyes on was the kicking position. Chris Boswell seemed to be healthy, nailing both of his field goals attempts, with a long of 47. He also nailed his lone extra point attempt.
His competition, Matthew Wright, also hit two extra points while kicking a 42-yard field goal that just made it through the uprights.
Overall, the evening was an impressive showing with a two-point “victory” notched on the scoreboard.