Steelers 1st-round pick Devin Bush ‘as advertised’
Nearly 30 minutes after the Family Fest practice concluded Sunday night, Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Devin Bush still was roaming around the south end zone at Heinz Field.
After his first taste of football at his home stadium, Bush spent extra time signing autographs, conducting interviews and showing family members around the facility.
It was almost like he didn’t want to leave.
“It was fun,” Bush said. “Just to get the atmosphere, get the feel of the fans in the stadium, get to know your way around, where your sideline is, where you do your pregame warmups, it felt like home.”
Bush won’t have to wait long to get the next taste of that environment. The Steelers open the preseason schedule Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the stakes taken a notch higher.
For Bush, it will be his first game experience as a professional football player.
“I’m super excited,” Bush said.
He’s not alone. His position coach, former Steelers linebacker Jerry Olsavsky, is eager to see how Bush, whom the Steelers traded up 10 spots to take in the first round, fares in his professional debut.
“That’s the next step you have to take,” Olsavsky said Tuesday before practice at Saint Vincent. “How are you in battle? He practiced Sunday at the stadium, so he got familiar with the surroundings. (Now it’s) ‘Hey, what’s it like when (it’s the real thing).’”
Bush is listed as the second-team left inside linebacker on the depth chart the Steelers released Tuesday. Veteran free-agent signing Mark Barron occupies the first team alongside right inside linebacker Vince Williams.
Williams, though, is working his way back from a hamstring injury. Coach Mike Tomlin typically only gives his starters — at least the few who actually dress — a cursory look in the preseason opener, which means Bush could see plenty of snaps.
Thanks to some coincidental scheduling, the game will feature Bush and the other top inside linebacker from the April draft. Tampa Bay drafted LSU junior Devin White with the No. 5 overall pick. Five selections later, the Steelers rook Bush, a junior from Michigan.
“You don’t know how long either one will be in there,” Olsavsky said. “Devin (Bush) is a competitor, I’m sure he knows who he’s playing and stuff like that. Really, all of the guys when you get up here, you’re very competitive and you want to be the best guy on the field at your position.
“The fact they both came out and were high picks will add a little bit more, but they already are high-level competitors.”
Bush has impressed coaches with how quickly he has learned the playbook. Since the beginning of training camp, he has rotated into the first-team inside linebacker rotation with Williams and Barron. Tasked with providing the speed at inside linebacker that has been missing since Ryan Shazier’s spinal cord injury in December 2017, Bush could open the season as a starter, which Shazier did in 2014. Barron could replace Williams in subpackages, which the Steelers play almost 75 percent of the time.
Olsavsky smiled when he was asked how much Bush has grown as a player since he started practicing with the Steelers.
“He’s pretty grown,” he said. “That’s the thing. There’s not a lot. He’s doing a real good job of understanding what we’re doing. Sometimes, we switch from day to day. He’s really adaptable. He can do everything. He’s as advertised.”
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who started as a rookie in 2017, echoed that sentiment.
“He takes whatever you put on his plate, and he’s doing a great job with it,” Watt said. “He’s also being very aggressive. I’ve very impressed with him.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .