Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush (55) lines up during the first half of Friday’s exhibition opener. (Photo: Keith Srakocic, Associated Press)
Pittsburgh — The Pittsburgh Steelers expect first-round pick Devin Bush to provide a serious jolt of athleticism and swagger to a young defense.
The speedy inside linebacker already made a significant impact in the preseason opener, a 30-28 home victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
“I was less concerned with his productivity and more concerned about his demeanor, and I really liked his demeanor,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He was present. It wasn’t too big for him. He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert and those were good signs.”
Bush played 40 snaps in one half of play and finished with 10 tackles, including seven solo. He had six tackles in the first quarter alone, including four solo.
“I was just feeling it, and having fun,” Bush said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, I was just having fun and playing football again.”
It was the first substantial in-game action for the 5-foot-11, 234-pound Bush since he wrapped up a three-year All-American career at Michigan. The Steelers made a rare, aggressive moved and traded up to select Bush with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round.
They felt it was necessary to acquire a do-everything difference maker in the middle of their defense with Ryan Shazier’s career in jeopardy as he recovers from spinal surgery. It was the first time the Steelers traded up in the first round since 2003.
Bush didn’t disappoint in his first time out with the Steelers.
“I think the biggest thing was that it wasn’t practice anymore and I got the chance to play in a game-like setting and compete against another team,” Bush said. “I just love to make plays. I love to play football.”
Bush made his presence felt with a tackle on his first play of the game. He had four total tackles on Tampa Bay’s 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
On the Bucs’ second offensive possession, Bush nearly had an interception. He jumped a short route and came away with a pass breakup on third-and-five.
“My arm kind of got stuck,” Bush said. “I couldn’t get it up in time and by that time the ball was already in my face. It happened so fast. I didn’t get my hands up in time and it hit my facemask.”
Bush had his pass breakup on third down, but the drive continued because of a roughing the passer call. He later put an end to the series on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers 17. Bush shot through a hole in the offensive line and pursued Andre Ellington in the backfield, combining with Ola Adeniyi for the key fourth-down stop.
“Fourth down came, they went for it, and I just took a shot,” Bush said. “If you want to make a play bad enough, you’ll do anything in your power to do it. It’s definitely a gift.”
Bush’s athleticism has been evident, but teammates regularly point to the mental aspect of the rookie’s game.
“His above-the-neck game is beyond his years right now,” outside linebacker Bud Dupree said. “He’s making all the calls, and we’re making him make the calls so he doesn’t’ get lackadaisical with us making the calls. He’s the guy on the inside now, so he has to make sure he’s on top of that.”
Bush was happy with how he called the plays Friday against Tampa Bay.
“I think I was pretty vocal,” Bush said. “I haven’t done that since college. It felt good to get out there and do it again.”
It was a learning experience for the rookie, who was pleased with his performance, but not overly satisfied.
“I did decent, I did alright,” Bush said. “I think the (interception) would’ve made it a lot better. But I’ve got a lot more to work on.”
Broncos’ Butt returns
Finally, some good news for the banged-up Broncos: Jake Butt is back.
Butt, a former Michigan standout, had been sidelined by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee since the third day of training camp.
The Broncos have been hit hard by injuries, especially at tight end, where Butt has been joined on the sideline at various times by Bug Howard (ankle), Jeff Heuerman (shoulder) and Troy Fumagalli (hip).
Butt’s return was a welcome relief for offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and quarterback Joe Flacco, who need depth at tight end behind first-round pick Noah Fant as they iron out the new scheme.
Butt, who blew out his left knee at practice last September after missing his rookie season following his second right ACL tear, said he’s going to be cautious as he ramps up his work. But he added that he’s eager to play in the preseason and earn his roster spot.
Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who spent more than 30 years molding some of the best players at the position at both the collegiate and professional level, has died. He was 62.
The team said Drake, who joined the coaching staff in 2018, died early Sunday morning.
… Cardinals executive Ron Minegar has been arrested on suspicion of DUI. Chandler police say Minegar was stopped around 11:30 p.m. Saturday for speeding, failure to drive within one lane of traffic and driving within the bicycle lane.
They say further investigation resulted in the DUI arrest and he was cited and released.
… The Vikings traded for Kaare Vedvik from the Ravens. Vedvik has kicked and punted for Baltimore, which was set at the position with standouts Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. The Ravens announced the trade via Twitter with an undisclosed draft pick as the compensation in the deal.
… Broncos running back Theo Riddick, a former Lion, will be out six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury.
… 49ers tackle Shon Coleman will be placed on season-ending injury reserve with a serious injury to his right leg suffered in the exhibition opener.
… Cornerback DeAndre Baker, the last of the Giants’ three first-round draft picks, sprained his left knee in practice.
… Chandler Catanzaro, a 28-year-old kicker, chose to retire from playing football after a shaky start to training camp with the Jets.