Devin Bush could become a human eraser for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The inside linebacker is coming to Pittsburgh so he can erase quarterbacks on blitzes, running backs at the line of scrimmage and receivers over the middle.
But the 2019 first-round choice out of Michigan could erase so much more:
• The hole created by Ryan Shazier’s injury
• An inability to trade up high enough to draft an inside linebacker in the first round in 2018
• A flawed plan to compensate for failing to do so
• The bitter taste of the Antonio Brown trade
That’s quite a lot to ask of a 20-year-old kid who has never played a down of NFL football. But this is what Bush could accomplish for the franchise if he pans out as a top-10 pick.
For a year and a half, the Steelers have stumbled their way through various attempts at addressing the vacancy at inside linebacker after Shazier’s spinal injury in November 2017.
Whether it was asking more of Vince Williams, or signing guys such as Sean Spence and Jon Bostic, or promoting L.J. Fort, or whiffing on an attempt to trade up for Rashaan Evans in the draft last year, or assembling a collection of hybrid safeties, nothing has worked.
I heard the Steelers went so far as to hire some tech geeks at Carnegie Mellon to build a time machine so they could go back to March 2017 to offer Dont’a Hightower even more money than they initially did.
But Bill Belichick built a better time machine, and he rewound the clock one day more.
From an on-field standpoint, Bush has the potential to put makeup on all of those old blemishes.
From an optics standpoint, he can do even more than that. He can make the Brown trade look good.
Getting piddly third- and fifth-round draft choices from Oakland for Brown in March was a rotten return for a player of Brown’s caliber.
But Brown forced the hand of general manager Kevin Colbert, and he undercut his own value with his erratic off-field behavior.
The Steelers were left looking helpless and fleeced.
That was especially true when rumors surfaced a day earlier that the Bills may have taken Brown for simply swapping picks in the first round. Steelers fans embraced that idea because the Bills’ ninth overall pick was seen as potentially good enough to get Bush.
It would’ve been, as things turned out.
Luckily for the Steelers, pick No. 10 from Denver was, too. But it was only manageable to acquire via trade because of the early third-round pick the Steelers got from Oakland (No. 66) in return for Mr. Big Chest.
Or at least that’s how Colbert wants to sell it.
“The thing that allowed us to do that was having the high third,” Colbert said after the selection of Bush. “We gave up 14 spots. That second (No. 52) and that high third enabled us to do it. Because we said under no circumstances would we go into tomorrow with less than two picks.
“We want to have two picks (Friday) because there are good players still left.”
That’s sharp presentation, but not entirely the truth. The Steelers didn’t trade anything they got for Brown — or Le’Veon Bell for that matter. They dealt their own capital.
Bell’s 2020 compensatory selection hasn’t been deemed yet, and the Steelers forked over their own first- and second-round picks to move up into Denver’s position. That wasn’t currency from the Raiders. And they still own their original third-round selection (No. 83) anyway.
All the Raiders picks did was soften the blow of parting with a second-rounder and allow for the hope of maybe moving back into the second round with another trade Friday.
As Colbert said, all that selection did was allow the Steelers to work within their self-imposed framework of having two picks on Day 2 of the draft.
Frankly, even if they had only one, the move to get Bush probably would’ve been worthwhile. But this is a better headline to sell: “A.B. trade yields a coveted linebacker!”
The beautiful part for Colbert is that he can now present the Oakland margin call on Brown back in March as if it was essentially a straight-up trade of Mr. Blonde Mustache for Bush.
That’s a trick they attempted to pull a year ago to get Evans before the Titans swooped in and did it first.
“This year because of that high third that we got from the Raiders in the Antonio Brown trade, we were willing to do (a trade up),” Colbert continued. “It was much easier to trade this season because of the extra pick.”
See, when you put it that way …
Given what Brown put the Steelers fanbase through, this is “spin” even the most jaded Steelers fan will want to buy.
So along with Bush erasing everything else, why not delete a little history?
And maybe, while he’s erasing mishaps from the past year for his new team, delete the contact info of that fashion designer who came up with the idea for that Draft Night suit.