Evidenced mostly by a 9-6-1 record, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t do enough to replace injured inside linebacker Ryan Shazier for the 2018 season.
Finding a player with Shazier’s blend of speed, athleticism and instincts remained atop the team’s wish list heading into the NFL Draft, and nobody was happier than defensive coordinator Keith Butler when general manager Kevin Colbert traded up 10 spots in the first round to select inside linebacker Devin Bush.
“I’m glad Kevin did what he did,” Butler said Wednesday before the second day of minicamp. “We knew what we wanted going into the draft. They had a pretty good idea. … The guys we wanted were both of the Devins.”
Tampa Bay selected LSU’s Devin White with the No. 5 overall pick, prompting Colbert to start working the phones so he wouldn’t miss out on Bush, the consensus second-best inside linebacker available in his class. The Steelers cemented a deal with the Denver Broncos to get the No. 10 overall selection.
“The first one went early, and Kevin did a great thing of moving up,” Butler said. “The last time we moved up, what happened?”
In 2003, traded up in the first round to take USC’s Troy Polamalu, who was named first-team All-Pro on four occasions and earned eight Pro Bowl selections while being named the 2010 NFL defensive player of the year.
“We went to three Super Bowls and won two of them, so that puts a lot of pressure on us,” Butler said. “But that’s OK. I’m good for that. I hope it helps us a lot, and I think it will.”
Bush, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, was one of several players the Steelers added in order to inject more speed into a defense that will be without Shazier for a second consecutive year. Linebacker Jon Bostic and hybrid safety/linebacker Morgan Burnett did not adequately replace Shazier, and both players were released in the offseason.
The Steelers signed Mark Barron to replace Burnett in subpackages and perhaps play alongside Bush inside in some situations.
“I’m not going to criticize the guys that we had there before, but we needed help there and Kevin did a good job of helping us out there,” Butler said. “I’m glad we got him. I hope we can use him, and he has success. I think he wills, but who knows? You don’t know until they start playing. They all look good in shorts. It matters when they get those pads on.
“We’ll find out, because … the two things I can’t teach them are being aggressive, and the other is speed. He’s got natural speed in terms of hitting. That’s something his mother and daddy gave him, so I’ll be interested to see what kind of hitter he is.”