The Pittsburgh Steelers will decline their fifth-year option on the rookie contract of starting inside linebacker Devin Bush, according to a report by Adam Schefter on Monday.
The team had until 4 p.m. on Monday to make a decision on Bush’s status for the 2023 season. The one-year option would have paid Bush a fully guaranteed $10.5 million, determined by the average of the third through 25th-highest salaries at his position.
Bush will now become an unrestricted free agent next March unless he and the Steelers can work out another contract extension. The option language is standard among all NFL first-round draft picks. The Steelers traded up to get Bush as the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
He worked his way into the starting lineup as a rookie and had a promising start to his 2020 season, but suffered a major setback when an ACL injury cut his season short. Bush did not return to his previous form in his first season back from injury in 2021, putting the Steelers in the unenviable position of needing to make a decision about the future of a player whose projected level of play is uncertain.
Bush finished this past season with 70 tackles, two for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and four passes defended. In his only other full season as a rookie in 2019, Bush had 109 tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries and four passes defended.
The Steelers have twice attempted to shore up the position next to Bush after Vince Williams’ retirement last summer. The team traded for Joe Schobert in the 2021 preseason, but released him this offseason. The Steelers instead signed fellow former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack to a two-year contract.
Bush and backups Marcus Allen and Robert Spillane are now all slated to be unrestricted free agents after the 2022 season.
Bush marks the second consecutive Steelers first-round draft pick to have his fifth-year option declined, as the Steelers did the same with 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds. The team later re-signed Edmunds to a one-year extension for the 2022 season.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was drafted in the first round in 2018 by the Miami Dolphins before being traded to Pittsburgh in 2019, will be playing under his fifth-year option with the Steelers this fall.
The Steelers also picked up the fifth-year options of former first-round picks Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Jarvis Jones and Artie Burns had theirs declined. David DeCastro signed a long-term contract before his option season came up.