Can Devin Bush bring Steelers’ greatest-ever rookie value?


To continue reading, log into your account:

[theme-my-login show_title=0]
Devin Bush. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Three statistical slices on the Pittsburgh Steelers:

• Rookie expectations: Steelers fans have exceptionally high hopes for first-round pick Devin Bush, a Michigan star selected 10th overall who's supposed to provide the speed, power and coverage ability that the team has lacked at inside linebacker since Ryan Shazier's injury. He will have to kill it in 2019 to crack the list of the Steelers' all-time best rookie performers, though. Pro Football Reference tracks a stat called Approximate Value (AV), which attempts to measure the overall contributions of players across different positions on the field and across different eras. According to AV, the top rookies in Steelers history during the post-merger era (1970-present) include Kendrell Bell (16 AV in 2001), Franco Harris (13 AV in 1972), Maurkice Pouncey (13 AV in 2010), Ben Roethlisberger (11 AV in 2004), Louis Lipps (10 AV in 1984), JuJu Smith-Schuster (10 AV in 2017), Le'Veon Bell (8 AV in 2013), Santonio Holmes (8 AV in 2006), Jack Lambert (8 AV in 1974) and Darren Perry (8 AV in 1992). Bush will need to have a borderline Pro Bowl-caliber year to break into that group.

• Against the odds: With the emergence of B.J. Finney, many expected the Steelers to let left guard Ramon Foster walk in free agency this offseason. Instead, they resigned the 33-year-old -- who had a resurgent 2018 season while starting all 16 games -- to a two-year contract extension. It's just the latest surprise success for Foster, an undrafted lineman out of Tennessee who has enjoyed a decade-long NFL career. For long shots looking to sneak on to the Steelers' roster this summer, Foster offers hope. He has appeared in the fourth-most games (146) among all Steelers who entered the league as an undrafted free agent during the post-merger era. The only players neglected on draft day to see more game action are Donnie Shell (201 career games), Greg Warren (180) and James Harrison (177).

• Red zone Rocket: Listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, Diontae Johnson hardly fits the archetype of the wide receiver who can outjump and overpower defensive backs for touchdowns in the red zone. But the Steelers' third-round pick out of Toledo was stellar when his team crossed the opponent's 20-yard line. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Johnson hauled in a combined 18 passes and 12 touchdowns in the red zone. According to Pro Football Focus, the sure-handed Johnson had the 11th-best receiving grade in the red zone among all college players the past two seasons and ranked ninth in the percentage of red zone targets resulting in a first down or a touchdown (about 39 percent). Roethlisberger might discover a new favorite target when the field shrinks and throwing windows narrow.

To continue reading, log into your account: