Kevin Gorman: Steelers counting on LBs Mark Barron, Devin Bush | TribLIVE.com
Kevin Gorman, Columnist

Kevin Gorman: Steelers counting on LBs Mark Barron, Devin Bush

Kevin Gorman

Neither Mark Barron nor Devin Bush has ever played against Lamar Jackson, so the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebackers can only go by what they have watched on film.

Barron and Bush are impressed by the Baltimore Ravens second-year quarterback, who has evolved into the NFL’s most dangerous dual-threat playmaker.

“It’s most definitely a different dynamic with him being as high-level as he is, as far as running the ball,” Barron said. “As far as being a running quarterback, he’s probably the best one in the league at this moment.”

The Steelers are well aware of Jackson’s passing ability, given he has completed 65% of his passes for 1,110 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

When the Steelers played the Ravens last season, Jackson had yet to supplant Joe Flacco as the starter and was still in a specialized role, with nine carries for 27 yards and only one pass for 12 yards in two AFC North games against the Steelers.

Now, the Steelers respect Jackson’s arm as much as his legs.

How will the Steelers keep Jackson honest? They have to force him to play in the pocket, prevent him from finding vertical seams to hit quick passes and convert long downs. They have to force him to make good decisions and even better throws. Mostly, they have to stay disciplined to tackle Jackson.

That’s where the Ravens have to respect Barron and Bush, who are coming off their best performance of the season in the 27-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on “Monday Night Football.” They combined for 20 tackles (four for losses), two pass breakups, a sack and an interception.

“I think both guys are growing and, boy, we need them to,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “One guy is new and one guy is new to us, so you’re always concerned about the communication end of it when you’re talking about that. …

It was the first time the Steelers newcomers stood out in the same game this season. And the timing couldn’t have been better, given it was the first of two consecutive division games and the Steelers were playing without Vince Williams.

This is why the Steelers prioritized adding speed at inside linebacker this offseason, signing Barron via free agency and trading up to draft Bush with their first-round pick to complement Williams.

The upgrade isn’t lost on John Harbaugh. The Ravens coach faced Barron when he was with the Los Angeles Rams and got to know Bush when he played for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan — “My brother loves him, one of his favorite players of all time” — and raved about their aggressive playmaking.

“They’ve added all that speed,” Harbaugh said, “and I think that’s been good for the Steelers.”

Barron’s performance was a boost, especially after he recorded only one stop at San Francisco. Not only did he have a season-high 11 tackles, but Barron twice prevented touchdowns with plays in the end zone.

Bush followed a breakout game at San Francisco — 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries — with another against Cincinnati. He had nine tackles (seven solo), three tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Bush got the first of the Steelers’ eight sacks against the Bengals when he dropped Dalton for a 9-yard loss on their first possession to force a third-and-14 at the Steelers 49.

That Barron and Bush are developing chemistry is an important development for a defense that is starting to click. As they learn the defense, their speed is starting to show up with big plays.

“We know it’s not a finished product,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said, “but those two guys are huge for us.”

What would be huge for the Steelers is if Barron and Bush continue to polish the product, particularly this week.

Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


1751403_web1_gtr-Steelers21-091619
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Devin Bush returns a fumble against the Seahawks in the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019 at Heinz Field.
1751403_web1_AP_19262159948257
AP
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, left, talks with Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Mark Barron (26) and linebacker Devin Bush, right, during an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.