The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a very important player Sunday in linebacker Devin Bush. Steelers fans are sure to remember how much the loss of Ryan Shazier hurt the Steelers’ defense. Thankfully Bush’s injury is not a career-ending injury as Shazier’s ended up being, but it is a reminder of the importance of the inside-linebacker position on the Pittsburgh defense.
Steelers’ LB Devin Bush tore his ACL today and will require season-ending surgery, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 18, 2020
It will be up to Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert to decide what they are going to do to replace Bush. They have some in-house options, but it remains to be seen just how much confidence they have in those players.
In House Replacements for Devin Bush
Robert Spillane deserves a lot of praise for his play against the Browns. After Bush went down injured he was replaced by Spillane. Spillane was undrafted out of Western Michigan. After some NFL tryouts, he stuck on the Tennessee Titans 90-man roster. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he went back and forth from active roster and practice squad for the Titans and Steelers.
He has also seen playing time mainly on special teams. On Sunday, he was forced into the spotlight and was calling the plays on the field for the defense.
— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) October 19, 2020
Ulysees Gilbert III is another in-house option. Gilbert has been inactive to this point in the season but was a standout during Steelers’ training camp. Gilbert may be more athletic than Spillane and could form a linebacker by committee with Spillane.
Other options are safeties Marcus Allen and Antoine Brooks Jr. Both are larger-bodied safeties who spent time in training camp as in-the-box safeties and inside linebackers. They would both serve as a hybrid type player and could help in pass coverage situations.
Free Agent Options
Darron Lee – Lee was the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Lee has had some off-field issues and was suspended for the first four weeks of this season; likely the reason he is currently out of work. Lee is definitely the best linebacker on the open market, but the Steelers often shy away from players with off-field concerns.
Mychal Kendricks – Kendricks tore his ACL near the end of the 2019 season, but is said to be medically cleared to return to play. He has a lot of NFL experience with the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles. This would make a lot of sense as Kendricks could help the Steelers in 2020 and would likely be willing to take a small one-year deal to show other teams he still has something left.
Wesley Woodyard – Woodyard is an NFL veteran who played for the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans. He is 34 years old now and may not be a better option than what the team has besides having plenty of experience.
Avery Williamson – The New York Jets are giving up on the 2020 season. They traded former-Steeler Steve McLendon and Williamson is on an expiring contract. Perhaps they would let Williamson go for some draft capital. Especially after he questioned the Jets practice habits this week.
Right now it’s hard to say who else would be available via trade. Most teams have not yet conceded the 2020 season and aren’t going to be willing to part with a quality linebacker.
What Will They Do?
Inside linebacker is a huge position on this defense. The Steelers know they have a short window to get back to the Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger. Those two factors lead me to believe Kevin Colbert will be aggressive in filling the void left by Bush.
I fully expect the team to sign a player like Darron Lee or pursue a trade for someone like Avery Williamson or another inexpensive (due to the Steelers salary cap constraints) linebacker who has the athleticism to help replace Bush.