There may be no replacing Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers haven’t given up trying after jumping up to draft Michigan’s Devin Bush in Round 1.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made an uncharacteristically aggressive move in the Kevin Colbert era, trading up to No. 10 overall to select Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Steelers were long-linked to Bush, but standing pat at No. 20 would have guaranteed he’d be off the board by the time they made their selection. In return for moving up 10 spots, the Steelers also give up the No. 52 pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2020. But the Steelers hope the return on their investment will be far greater than what they had to ship to Denver.
Bush, the 2018 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has the versatility the Steelers love and have lacked since Ryan Shazier suffered a tragic neck injury during the 2017 season. Shazier’s production — which featured the ability to cover receivers, stop running backs and rush the passer from the interior — could not be replicated by any combination of players the Steelers experimented with. Pittsburgh tried to compensate by using safeties as linebackers and increasing their reliance on man coverage in the secondary in 2018 and the results were lackluster at best.
While there’s no guarantee that Bush is a Shazier clone, his collegiate production certainly mirrors Shazier’s, if not stat-by-stat then at least by usage. Bush played 32 games over three seasons for the Wolverines, tallying 172 combined tackles (18.5 for a loss), 10 sacks and 11 passes defensed. In comparison, Shazier played 39 games for Ohio State, and while his tackling numbers blow Bush’s away (317 combined, including 45.5 for a loss), his 15 sacks and four passes defensed certainly fall in line with Bush’s profile.
No matter what, the Steelers needed a triple-threat linebacker to anchor their defensive front and they identified one in Bush. And once they did so, they made the necessary move to jump up and draft him. The Steelers don’t do much trading-up in Round 1 under Colbert, so the trade with the Broncos to move 10 spots lays bare just how much the Steelers both wanted and needed what Bush brings to the field.