Steelers Won’t Pick Up Fifth-Year Option On LB Devin Bush

The Steelers will not pick up the fifth-year option on linebacker Devin Bush, per Ed Bouchette of The Athletic. That means that Bush will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2023.

The normally conservative Steelers made a bold move in the 2019 draft, trading their No. 20 and No. 52 overall selections that year, along with a 2020 third-rounder, to the Broncos in order to acquire Denver’s No. 10 overall pick. Pittsburgh used that choice on Bush, and it had every reason to believe the Michigan product would excel in the middle of its defense for years to come.

Unfortunately, things have not worked out as hoped. Bush started 15 games as a rookie and racked up 109 combined tackles, two picks, and a sack, but he suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 of the 2020 season and has struggled to find his footing this year. Even before the 2021 campaign got underway, it was announced that trade acquisition Joe Schobert would take over the role of defensive signal-caller, as the Steelers wanted Bush to focus on his recovery.

And while Bush has played all but one game this year, his performance has left much to be desired. Pro Football Focus’ metrics consider Bush the fourth-worst linebacker in football among players with enough snaps to qualify, and that ranking generally jibes with the eye test. Bush has struggled in coverage and against the run, and he has not made any progress as a pass rusher. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Bush has stayed upbeat and is well-liked, but the organization is becoming increasingly frustrated with his lack of development.

It is certainly possible that, by having a fully healthy offseason and putting his ACL tear further in the rearview mirror, Bush could start to play up to his potential in 2022 and earn a second contract with Pittsburgh. But for now, it stands to reason that the Steelers would not want to commit to a fully-guaranteed $10.5MM salary for 2023 for a player that presently looks more like a liability than an asset.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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