Delivering as advertised

He arrived amid great fanfare but also with perspective, with an understanding of where he was headed and how he intended to get there.

Inside linebacker Devin Bush wanted to prove that much initially after being drafted 10th overall out of Michigan.

Upon reporting for rookie minicamp, he first set out to establish "why I belong here, why I belong in the NFL and I'm going to play here for a long time."

The Joe Greene Great Performance Award, handed out annually since 1984 by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association of America to the Steelers' top rookie, is confirmation Bush is off and running.

He ended up starting 15 of 16 games and leading the Steelers in tackles (109) and solo tackles (72).

Bush also tied for the lead among Steelers with four fumble recoveries, tied for third on the team in interceptions (two) and finished fourth in tackles for a loss (nine).

The 2019 season turned out to be the first in franchise history in which a rookie surpassed 100 tackles.

Bush also became the first Steelers rookie since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger with a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception in the same game (he accomplished the feat on Oct. 13 in Los Angeles against the Chargers; that hadn't been done by an NFL rookie since Chicago's Eddie Jackson in 2017).

Such splash was anticipated, eventually if not immediately, when the Steelers traded up from the 20th overall selection to draft Bush.

But what got teammates' attention right away, beyond the rookie's obvious physical skill set, was the way Bush approached his job and the comfort level he quickly achieved while transitioning to the NFL.

As the son of a former NFL safety (father Devin played in the NFL from 1995-2002 with Atlanta, St. Louis and Cleveland), the Steelers' prized first-round pick had a keen appreciation of what would be required and the confidence to deliver.

"If you lack confidence, you're going to talk yourself out of a lot of things," Bush observed last spring. "Having confidence just gives you that motivation to keep going through.

"I'm here for a reason, and that's to be a part of the team and help the team win in all aspects. That's what they called me here to do, so I'm doing my job. It's kind of just natural, somebody asks me to do something, instructions are put in place, I got a job to do."

Cornerback Justin Layne was inactive for four games and didn't play in two others as a rookie. But by season's end the No. 3b pick from Michigan State had supplanted veteran Artie Burns defending gunners on the punt return team, an indication the coaching staff also had growing confidence in Layne's skills as a defensive back in the event they might be required.

Layne never saw the field on defense as a rookie, but he played 50 percent or more of the special teams snaps in a game five times, including in two of the final three.

Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs didn't make his NFL debut until Oct. 28 against Miami. The No. 6b pick from Alabama eventually saw action on 75 defensive snaps.

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