Tim Benz: Steelers’ Mike Tomlin compares Devin Bush to Ryan Shazier | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: Steelers’ Mike Tomlin compares Devin Bush to Ryan Shazier

Tim Benz
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush reacts to a near pick six against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 at Heinz Field.

Typically, coaches are prone to tamping down this sort of thing.

However, if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is willing to go there, don’t let me stop him. I’m willing to follow.

During a news conference Tuesday, Tomlin — unprompted — offered a comparison between first-round draft choice Devin Bush and former Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier.

“I thought it was a very solid performance,” Tomlin said of Bush’s preseason debut in a 30-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday night. “Really (it was) kind of reminiscent of Ryan Shazier’s performance in his first home preseason game a number of years ago in terms of production and getting around and making a number of plays.”

Since Bush was drafted to fill the void created when Shazier’s spine was injured in the middle of 2017, that quote will surely draw attention.

Of course, we all know that is the hope. That is the plan.

That someday Bush will rouse memories of Shazier flying around the middle-third of the defense, making plays with extreme athleticism.

But a coach — the normally reserved Tomlin who rarely pumps up young players — is now lending credence to the notion that Bush could actually reach that lofty level.

Again, after just one half of preseason football.

Not only is any sort of reference to Shazier high praise, but also a specific reference to that game is noteworthy.

After all, Shazier’s rookie preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills saw him make 11 tackles, intercept a pass, return it 27 yards and break up another pass.

Not bad.

Against the Buccaneers, Bush had a pass break-up on a play that was wiped out via a defensive penalty. Plus, he tallied 10 tackles, including a fourth-down stuff.

So, yeah. I see the similarities.

Who among us hasn’t? That’s why the entire city seemed to endorse the idea of the Steelers trading up to select Bush in the 10th slot of the 2019 NFL draft.

The hope was that his impact would be akin to Shazier’s and that it would happen quickly for a defense in desperate need of linebacker speed in the middle of the field.

With quotes like that from Tomlin, now there’s optimism that Bush is more than just hype or hope. There’s evidence that he’s tracking toward being the real deal.

As Shazier was before his injury.

After the game against Tampa, Bush was asked if his preseason NFL debut was as he dreamed it would be.

“It was better than that,” Bush beamed. “I felt it. I definitely had fun out there. I had a lot of fun.”

For as much as Tomlin may be cresting the excitement for Bush’s career to begin in earnest, he’s warning that incremental improvement is necessary.

As we saw from Shazier over the three and a half years prior to his injury.

“He is going to continue to write his story in terms of growth and development,” Tomlin added. “He has to roll his sleeves up and go back to work like the rest of them.”

It’s a message that appears Tomlin must have sent to Bush after his performance Friday.

“Calling the plays, being vocal, making plays. Doing it repetitively over and over again,” Bush said during postgame comments. “I think that’s what he’s talking about. I think? Sounds right. Right?”

It does. As do the comparisons to Shazier.

At least to start his rookie season.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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