When the Steelers drafted Devin Bush in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, trading up 10 spots to take him with the 10th pick overall, they were hoping for big things from the highly-touted linebacker.
It didn't take long for that to play out.
Bush was an impact player from the moment he put a Steelers helmet on, leading the team in tackles in his debut against the New England Patriots in Week 1 with 11, including seven solo stops. And he didn't stop there. In Week 2 against Seattle he had a fumble recovery, and the following week against San Francisco added two fumble recoveries.
It was just the start of a rookie season that lived up to the expectations.
"I laid down a pretty good foundation," said Bush. "I did a lot of different things last year, blitzing wise, playing the run, covering receivers, covering tight ends, and playing different situations. I would probably give myself a B plus maybe."
Bush was involved in seven of the takeaways the Steelers defense produced last season, with four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He said it's just the tip of the iceberg for what he can bring as far as splash plays for the defense.
"That is just me. I am a playmaker," said Bush, who won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, presented to the Steelers' top rookie. "I am going to make plays. I am going to figure out how to make plays. I just look at it as that is the type of player I am, so those are the type of plays I make. It's not too surprising to me. It's just surprising how many I am going to make.
"We have a lot of that on the defensive side of the ball, a lot of guys who can make splash plays. That is why splash plays look like they do, because we have so many playmakers."
Bush's 2019 numbers were beyond impressive. He finished with a team-high 109 tackles, which is a Steelers' record for a rookie. He became the first rookie in the NFL since 1988 to finish the season with at least 100 tackles, four fumble recoveries, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack in a season. Bush also became the first Steelers rookie, and only the second one since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, with a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception in the same game when he did it against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"This defense shows off a lot of my versatility, being able to play in the box, play the run, play against zone read teams and running quarterback teams," said Bush. "Being able to line up in the slot and cover a tight end, cover a receiver 20 yards down the field. Also being able to blitz, just use my speed, my quickness and just go around the field and be where I need to be."
One thing that really helped Bush this year, while at the same time frustrated him a little bit, was the Steelers managing his snaps as the season wore on. He played the majority of the snaps in the first half of the season, but as the year went on, they cut back on his reps, mixing in Mark Barron to try to confuse offenses as well as keep Bush fresh.
"I learned I am a rhythm player. I had a sense of that in college," said Bush. "When they started managing my reps I kind of understood I am a rhythm player, I need to feel the game out to get my groove and get my game started. That is one thing I learned.
"It was hard at first. It really was. But it made a lot of sense. There was nobody to be mad at. It was all about making sure I was okay. I could have gone out there and crumbled from all of the reps I took, all of the exposure. These guys know what they are doing. I trust them. I don't think I hit a wall physically. I think that helped with managing the reps.
"It was a mental struggle at one time. It was hard to process things. There was a lot going on. It wasn't a wall, but there were things that got you. But I got through it."