Labriola On

Bush thinks he and Vince can handle it

During a normal offseason, on a normal Tuesday during the first full week of May, Phase 2 of the Steelers offseason would be underway. Then in a few short days, it would be time for rookie minicamp, and it would be starting to feel like football at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. But there is nothing normal about this offseason, there isn't expected to be anything normal about it for some time, and who knows when it's going to start to feel like football again.

So instead of spending the day with his teammates, first putting in some classroom work and then some on-field activity in accordance with the rules for Phase 2, Devin Bush took part in some virtual instruction, worked out with his father and brother, and then sat down for a Zoom Video Conference with a small group of Pittsburgh media.

"It has affected it a lot," said Bush about the impact of the global pandemic on his profession. "We had OTAs scheduled where we could get back onto the field again and get back in the groove, but that was cancelled. I'm just trying to stay active, stay in the playbook, stay in the film room, get out there and don't beat yourself up too much during the workouts because we have a long season to go. I've been staying active and staying on top of my stuff, and when my time comes, I'm going to be ready."

To this point in their offseason, the Steelers have cut Mark Barron and lost Tyler Matakevich to the Buffalo Bills during free agency. And since the team didn't add an inside linebacker during the recently concluded NFL Draft, that leaves Bush and Vince Williams as the only inside linebackers on the roster with any appreciable regular season playing experience at inside linebacker in the Steelers' scheme.

"What Mark (Barron) did last season was a testament to him being such a good player and being a veteran player," said Bush. "I have no doubt me and Vince can go out there and control the defense. As far as (us needing to) fill in a spot with (another inside) linebacker, I'm not a coach or anything. I've seen we've signed some guys, and that could be a depth issue. You never really know until you know. Until we get into practices and camp and stuff like that, you really won't know for sure."

During the 2019 regular season, Bush played 889 snaps to lead all Steelers inside linebackers, and Barron was second with 750. But with Barron gone, it figures that somebody will have to step into the void created by his departure. Williams played 396 snaps to be third among the team's inside linebackers.

"I don't think it was a big load," said Bush about the amount of playing time he saw as a rookie. "I was able to handle it last year, and now I know what I'm stepping into, and I can handle the whole season."

Or maybe Ulysees Gilbert, who made the roster last season as an undrafted rookie, will be asked to do more than simply contribute occasionally on special teams.

"It's up to Ulysees," said Bush. "I think he's a good player, really talented. I think he has all the tangibles and the athleticism to get out on the field and play, but it's up to him to put it all together. But if it comes down to me and Vince taking all the snaps, I don't think we'll have a problem doing it."

But that's for somewhere down the road. Right now, Bush is just concentrating on the things he can control and doing what he can to prepare for whatever the immediate future might hold for him, his teammates, and the whole NFL for that matter.

"The biggest thing is to stay healthy, stay safe," said Bush. "We're just hoping for a regular season, to get a chance to play a 16-game regular season and get a shot at the Super Bowl."

And until that chance is presented: "I wake up in the morning around 9 or 10, eat, get a workout in every other day," said Bush. "We have meetings, and so I do my meetings throughout the day. And I have my Dad and my brother here, and we can go for a walk, hit the field sometimes, whatever our minds want, we just do it. I don't really have a set plan.

"Coming out of last season, I was just proud and happy I finished my first season healthy, that I was able to walk away and not have anything happen to me where I had to go through any surgeries and then extra rehab and things like that. As for working on my game, I want to become a better NFL player and a better person off the field as well as on the field, being a better professional and carrying myself in that way."

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