It wasn’t quite Ryan Shazier’s debut – Shazier, after all, had an interception to go along with nine tackles in his first preseason game – but Devin Bush made a nice first impression in the Steelers’ 30-28 preseason opening win against Tampa Bay Friday night.
Bush showed off his range, making plays at all three levels while recording 10 tackles in just two quarters of football. More importantly, he was assignment sound, not only being where he was supposed to be but making sure the guys around him were, as well.
“It wasn’t too big for him,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert and those were good signs.”
Buccaneers coach and former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was equally pleased with his rookie inside linebacker Devin White. White was the fifth overall pick in this draft, while Bush was the 10th.
“For Devin (White) – size, strength, speed and maturity. Everything you look for to be the leader of your defense,” Arians said while noting he didn’t necessarily notice Bush on the field.
Arians must not have been paying attention when his offense was on the field. Bush had 10 tackles. White had one, an assist.
If you had never before seen a football game in your life, you couldn’t help but notice that No. 55 in black sure was making a lot of tackles.
White, meanwhile, was doing a pretty good job of being invisible.
White, for example, was the main culprit in a third-and-20 conversion in the second quarter. Josh Dobbs pump faked to Xavier Grimble underneath and White froze just long enough for James Washington to get behind him.
Bush, meanwhile, was doing things such as making a key fourth-down stop on the Buccaneers’ second possession to turn the ball over on downs.
Not getting manipulated by a quarterback to go after an underneath receiver on third-and-long is just one little thing rookies learn. Bush had his moments when he looked like a rookie as well, but he was better in this game than White.
That’s not to say Bush is going to be a better player than White. One game does not a career make. But based off this one game, advantage Bush.
- The Steelers sat a lot of their primary players out of Friday night’s game. I wouldn’t expect to see many of them next weekend against Kansas City, either.
There’s just not a lot of reason to play Ben Roethlisberger or JuJu Smith-Schuster or Vance McDonald in these games and subject them to injury.
Plus, the coaching staff wants to get a good look at some young players.
But it does show that four preseason games are way too many. Look for that to be a part of the next collective bargaining agreement.
In fact, expect the preseason to be cut back to two games with the league adding two more teams to the playoffs in each conference, bringing the number of teams to reach the postseason to 16.
That doesn’t cheapen the regular season at all. And, in fact, it would keep interest in late season games in a lot of places that, quite frankly, haven’t typically had much to cheer about late in the year.
The players most certainly will agree to it. The owners will like it because it will keep people in the stadiums later into the season. Most importantly, the TV networks would like it because it would add four more playoff games on the opening weekend.
- Mason Rudolph looked poised and accurate against the Buccaneers, completing 5-of-8 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
He’ll get a chance to start next week against the Chiefs. If he has another outing like that, he’ll be the No. 2 quarterback for the Steelers in 2019.
What could that mean for Dobbs, last year’s backup? Well, with undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges also looking like he’s got some talent, Dobbs could find himself as the odd man out again.
Then again, that’s what everyone thought last season and Dobbs surprisingly beat out veteran Landry Jones for a roster spot.
But Dobbs has been more tentative with his throws in camp this year than he was a year ago, when he played like he had nothing to lose. Most people had him being cut once Rudolph was selected in the third round.
Hodges is playing with a similar feeling this year. He’s just letting the ball rip. And it’s working for him.
Dobbs wasn’t terrible against the Bucs, but he has to be better than just not terrible.
- At least nobody in the Steelers’ training camp has cryogenically frozen their feet in France.
That’s the excuse for the frostbite on Antonio Brown’s feet.
It makes him the most famous guy since Hannibal tried to take his elephants across the Alps to invade Italy and freeze his feet in France.