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Say Less, Do More: Steelers LB Devin Bush Fighting for Steelers Career

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Steelers ILB Devin Bush

PITTSBURGH — After a rough 2021 season in his return from injury, Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush is quietly having a very strong 2022 season — and everyone involved seems set to keep it that way.

Bush recorded just 70 tackles while playing 14 games last season, and already has 62 through 11 games in 2022. His Pro Football Focus grade for the 2022 season is a 63.6, nearly double his 34.4 grade from 2021 and a career-best mark.

When Robert Spillane missed Monday’s Steelers game against the Indianapolis Colts, it was Bush that filled his spot as the Dime linebacker and played every single snap of defense while recording a team-high eight tackles.

Spillane has struggled in that role throughout this season, and Bush’s success in it on Monday could be the first step to the former first-round pick reclaiming the three-down potential that made the Steelers want to trade up to get him at No. 10 overall in 2019.

While Bush struggled off the field in his return from the knee injury that wrecked his sophomore season, he also got into some trouble for things he said away from the field.

He caused a stir in the 2021 offseason for his Twitter usage, including sharing a video of a cat falling to its death. That drew a rebuke from Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward.

This training camp, Bush was asked about his future. After the Steelers declined the fifth-year option on his contract, he will be a free agent after this season for the first time. Bush basically said he didn’t care whether he plays in Pittsburgh next year or not.

“It’s the business,” Bush said. “I mean, I’m gonna still be in the NFL. So, we’ll see.”

At that point, Bush still being in the NFL in 2023 seemed far from a sure thing. The Steelers were in the process of making him battle with Spillane to keep his starting role. Bush won that battle, but not the Dime linebacker role that Spillane had retained until his injury.

But over the course of the season, Bush has looked more and more like the player the Steelers hoped they were getting when they drafted him. His coverage skills have progressed to a point unseen so far in his career. I wrote all of that a month ago.

RELATED: The Steelers Are Finally Getting the Devin Bush They Drafted

A couple weeks ago, I noticed Bush doing something I hadn’t seen him do before in the run game. He has been aggressively attacking and punishing free lineman at a level I’ve never even seem him even remotely approach.

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So I set out to talk to Bush about his successful season and newfound run-defense prowess, but he hasn’t been in the mood to talk. Bush put me off a few times before frankly saying that he just didn’t want to answer any questions.

Defensive veterans Myles Jack and Montravius Adams, overhearing the interaction, explained that Bush is trying to say less and do more, and keep his focus on the field instead of in the media. Given his recent play, that seems to be a formula that’s working for him.

On Tuesday at his weekly press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked twice about Bush’s success and his expanded role and potential for more of that. He was nearly as quiet about it as Bush has been.

Reporter: “Has Devin earned a bigger role? He played a lot more this game in terms of the division of labor at inside linebacker.”

Tomlin: “Robert Spillane was hurt.”

Reporter: “He played more than Myles, too.”

Tomlin: “Myles was hurt maybe the week before.”

That could come off as Tomlin throwing some cold water on the notion that Bush is having a career resurgence and is more than ready to absorb an even bigger role in the defense.

But I think it’s simply a case of Tomlin and his player both having the right idea for what Bush needs to succeed. Bush doesn’t want to talk up his play. His coach isn’t going to be the one to do it for him.

Instead, Bush can talk on the field. So far, it’s been working.

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