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  • Is It Time to Accept Devin Bush as an IDP Bust?

    Jersey Giveaway
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    The Pittsburgh Steelers once had a rising star in LB Devin Bush. It’s time to close the book on the former IDP star as two years after his ACL tear, that is no longer the case.


    Let’s time travel back to 2019 for a second, focusing on the first rookie in Pittsburgh Steelers history to record over 100 tackles. Now, Devin Bush is dangerously close to being an IDP bust.

    It was all going so well. Fresh off of a 107-tackle season as a rookie, Bush was a popular IDP selection, particularly in tackle-centric formats. His two interceptions and coverage ability reeked of an every-down linebacker for a team so desperate to find one that they traded multiple picks to move up and select Bush.

    Now, it’s a few years later, and the tone has shifted closer to IDP bust territory. A torn ACL in Week 6 of 2020 followed that promising rookie campaign. His return in 2021 didn’t bolster confidence as he was downright bench-worthy for the Steelers who lacked alternatives to Bush.

    He was sluggish to react and too slow once he did. While no one player is to blame for the faults of a unit, Bush’s performance is a big reason why the Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed. The Steelers are a near-lock to decline his fifth-year option this offseason, a projected $11 million.

    This is where ideally, supporters argue for Bush. They clamor that he was a great prospect who thrived off the bat who suffered an unlucky injury and needed some extra time to come back from it. Even the Brian Flores hire as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach is cause for optimism. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

    Bush’s injury is not an easy one to come back from. Jaylon Smith’s ACL tear in college derailed a career before it even started, never again looking like the blue-chip product IDP owners dreamed of. Kwon Alexander, who first tore his ACL in 2018, went from a locked-in IDP asset to a middling sigh. It’s a huge problem for linebackers who must maintain quick change-of-direction ability at a much higher weight.

    And for Bush, that weight comes at an even higher level than Smith or Alexander. Compare their BMIs — Body Mass Index, which calculates a value based on height and weight.

    Smith: 28.6
    Alexander: 29.9
    Bush: 32.6

    Now, that is often used as a positive number as a means to deter physical injuries. The theory goes that higher BMIs can result in fewer injuries. But that does not apply to non-contact, freak ACL tears. Now that it’s happened, all it means is more weight on a less explosive frame.

    Middle linebackers must get from sideline to sideline in today’s NFL if they hope to stay on the field. Bush looked tapped out during the season, and that’s not even before addressing his in-game decisions. He took bad angles and offensive playmakers constantly exposed him in coverage.

    Pro Football Focus noted that he allowed a whopping 116.1 passer rating through the first six weeks — a PFF grade of just over 50, graded out of 100. By the end of the season, that grade plummeted to 34.4 — absolutely abysmal and unplayable.

    He still piled up some tackles to make fantasy noise, but his real-life impact was far more negative than it was positive. With the offseason upon us, there’s change on the horizon.

    For the first time in a long time, the Steelers have cap space to spend. A comfortable $31 million suggests that Pittsburgh will seek out one of free agency’s top MLBs. De’Vondre Campbell had a stellar season with the Packers, Anthony Walker led the Browns in tackles, and Atlanta’s Foyesade Oluokun is another tantalizing off-ball presence.

    There are even more names that the Steelers will look to add, bringing in much-needed competition in an effort to fill a void that Ryan Shazier vacated when he suffered a career-ending injury in 2017. Bush will have to earn his snaps for the first time in his career with a new defensive coordinator as Keith Butler has retired. General manager Kevin Colbert, the man who drafted Bush, is also expected to retire this offseason.

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    That’s not a good combination for a player trending down.

    Fantasy value is seasonal, as certain times bring different ebbs and flows. Bush fits in the category of players whose value is certain to drop rather than rise. He likely won’t be an every-down linebacker anymore. Bush allows too many big plays through poor tackle angles or mental lapses in coverage which can lead Mike Tomlin to hook him off the field like a bad actor in a play.

    Snaps are key to fantasy IDP, even more than offensive assets. A wide receiver, tight end, or running back can make their hay on a handful of plays. That chance is far rarer for linebackers who need consistent snaps to get tackles, and therefore production. Splash plays are simply far harder to come by.

    Bush’s snaps should’ve decreased in 2021 if any alternative was available. You can be sure it will dip next season. Fantasy owners throw his name around in fantasy trade talk as a popular sleeper, but Bush’s peak has been reached.

    Two years removed from any sort of positive talk, it’s time to adjust the way people view Bush — not an ascending talent, but a disappointing flop.


    Thank you for checking out my article! You can read all of my articles on my IDP Guys’ author page. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Michael__Sicoli and @IDPGuys (we have offense too) and please check out our website at idpguys.org.

    Michael Sicoli

    A dynasty enthusiast and fantasy football addict, there's not much more I'd prefer to write about. I'm a New Yorker at a Connecticut university -- Quinnipiac -- who's a firm believer that the NFL doesn't have an offseason.
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