Steelers trade up, draft linebacker Devin Bush at No. 10
Moving up 10 spots in the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off the first trade of the NFL Draft on Thursday and picked Michigan linebacker Devin Bush with the No. 10 overall selection.
The Steelers, who held the No. 20 pick, swapped first-round slots with the Denver Broncos and gave up their second-round pick this year (No. 52 overall) and third-round pick in the 2020 draft.
General manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers were willing to part with their second-round selection because they hold the No. 66 overall pick, which they acquired from the Oakland Raiders when they traded wide receiver Antonio Brown. In addition to that third pick of the third round, the Steelers also hold the No. 83 overall choice.
The Steelers have eight picks remaining overall.
“That high third really enabled us to do the trade,” Colbert said. “I said under no circumstances would we go into (Friday) with less than two picks.”
The last time the Steelers traded up in the first round was 2006 when they moved up from No. 32 to No. 25 to get wide receiver Santonio Holmes. It cost them third-round and fourth-round draft picks. The other time was in 2003 when the Steelers jumped from No. 27 to No. 16 to grab safety Troy Polamalu. That cost them a third-round and sixth-round selection.
“Where we had Devin rated, we didn’t feel guilty about trading up to get him” Colbert said. “He wasn’t the 15th player on our board by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a unique football player.”
It was the highest the Steelers drafted a player since 2000 when they got wide receiver Plaxico Burress with the No. 8 choice.
Bush was the second inside linebacker selected. Tampa Bay grabbed LSU’s Devin White with the No. 5 pick. When Buffalo made its choice at No. 9, Colbert worked quickly to swing the deal with Denver.
“That’s just testament to me as a player,” Bush said on a conference call with reporters. “They like me enough as a player and person to feel comfortable to trade up and snag me.”
Joe Greene, the team’s first-round pick 50 years ago and one of only two players in franchise history to have his number retired, represented the Steelers in Nashville and announced the first-round selection of Bush.
A two-year starter at Michigan, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Bush was named the Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2018 and a second-team All-American after getting a team-high 80 tackles, including 91/2 for loss. He also had five sacks and broke up six passes in 12 games. He had 102 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore.
“His game is predicated on what is needed to play the position in modern day NFL football,” Colbert said. “He can not only play the run, but he has exceptional cover abilities and he also can rush the passer.”
Colbert said the Steelers had four members of the personnel department scout Michigan’s games last year. They interviewed Bush at the NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and had a 40.5-inch vertical jump. The night before Michigan’s pro day, Colbert and Mike Tomlin took Bush and several of his teammates to dinner.
“He’s an all-situations linebacker, really, all-three down type of guy — versus the run, versus the pass, being in coverage or in pressures,” Tomlin said. “Those are just the tangible things. We were equally impressed and fired up about his intangibles. He comes from a football family. He’s a football guy. Everyone speaks highly of him, not only as a player but as a person. His leadership skills are unquestioned.
“We interviewed a lot of Michigan players through the draft process, and it was unanimous in terms of who their unquestioned leader was and that was attractive to us as well.”
The Steelers have been trying to find a three-down, sideline-to-sideline inside linebacker since Ryan Shazier’s spinal cord injury in December 2017. Jon Bostic was signed in free agency last offseason, but by the end of the year he hardly was on the field. The Steelers signed linebacker Mark Barron this offseason, and they hope his presence can help Bush ease his way into the defensive packages.
“With Mark Barron on the defense, I think that helps,” Colbert said. “It gives us two good players in that role. Where Devin is and how much he plays, that’s up to coach, but it’s nice to know that I think he will help us at some point. It will be when he’s ready and not forcing him into a situation.”
Out of deference to Shazier, Bush did not view joining the Steelers as replacing Shazier in the middle of the defense.
“I feel like Ryan Shazier is a great player. Still is,” Bush said. “I hope to see him soon and wish all the best for Ryan Shazier in his recovery. I know he’s going to do well. … He will be back.
“I’m ready to be Devin Bush,” he added. “I’m not trying to compare myself to Ryan Shazier or anybody else.”
Colbert was willing to part with a 2020 third-round pick because the organization expects to receive a third-round compensatory pick next year for losing Le’Veon Bell in free agency.
“That gives you a little more justification for trading away a future pick,” Colbert said.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .