Butler: ‘We wanted one of the Devins’


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Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush (55) -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

It wasn't exactly a state secret, but Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler let the cat out of the bag Wednesday.

The Steelers were intent on acquiring either Devin White or Devin Bush in this year's draft.

White, an LSU product, and Bush of Michigan were considered the top two inside-linebacker prospects available in this year's draft.

And the Steelers made a big move up, trading their first- and second-round picks this year and a third in 2020 to the Broncos to go to the 10th pick and select Bush. He's the first defensive player the Steelers have selected in the top 10 of a draft since they took Hall of Famer Rod Woodson in 1987.

It was just the third time in GM Kevin Colbert's 20-year tenure the Steelers have traded up in the first round. The previous two times came in 2003 when they moved up to acquire Troy Polamalu. The second came in 2006 when they went up to get Santonio Holmes.

"I'm glad Kevin did what he did, to be honest," Butler said Wednesday during the second day of the Steelers' minicamp. "We knew what we wanted going into the draft. I think they had a pretty good idea of when (they would go). The guys we wanted were one of the Devins. The first one went early and Kevin did a great job in terms of moving up. To me, what happened the last time we moved up? We got (Troy) Polamalu, and we went to three Super Bowls and won two of them."

No pressure, right?

White went fifth overall to the Buccaneers, prompting the Steelers to make the move to go up and get Bush, whom they had rated slightly higher on their draft board.

Now, the big question is, when will Bush force his way into the starting lineup?

The Steelers signed veteran Mark Barron in free agency to help shore up their inside linebacker spot, where Jon Bostic started in 2018.

But adding Bush in the draft, as well, brings a whole new level of speed to the defense. Bush ran in the low 4.4s at the NFL Scouting Combine.

That duo should be a big upgrade to the middle of the Steelers defense, regardless of who winds up starting. But obviously, all eyes have been on Bush, who turns 21 next month.

"I'm not going to criticize the guys that were there before," Butler said. "We needed help there. Kevin did a good job of helping us out there. I'm glad we got him. I hope we can use him and he has success. I think he will. But who knows? You never know until they start playing. They all look good in shorts. It matters when they put those pads on. That's when we'll find out.

"There are two things I can't teach them. One of them is being aggressive. The other is speed. He's got natural speed in terms of hitting and things like that. That's something his mother and daddy gave him. I'll be interested to see what kind of hitter he is."

The tapes from his games at Michigan suggest hitting won't be a problem for Bush, despite him being just 5-foot-11 and 234 pounds.

Bush feels he's more than big enough to do everything asked of a Steelers linebacker.

"The way I'm built, I'm built low to the ground and I can generate a lot of power with my legs," Bush said. "So being able to use my athleticism and have that quick burst while being able to withstand the bigger guys, I think that's my biggest advantage.

"I'm a grown man, as well as everybody else in this locker room. I'm here to play football. That's what we're all here to do."

It doesn't sound like Bush will be overwhelmed by anything. That would be good for the Steelers, who watched as Polamalu struggled through his rookie season.

The future Hall-of-Fame safety -- he's up for vote this year -- appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, making 38 tackles and two sacks but failing to record an interception. It was the only season in his career where he played more than 12 games and did not intercept a pass.

But he became a player opponents feared in future seasons, starting in 2004.

The Steelers are hoping Bush doesn't have a similar learning curve. Having Barron on the roster helps that. But if Bush can get onto the field and contribute sooner rather than later, that would be welcomed.

"Doing that puts a lot of pressure on us. But that's OK. I'm good with that," Butler said. "I hope it helps us a lot, and I think it will. He's still got to learn. He's still a rookie. There will be great expectations from him. And he knows that. That's OK. In order to be successful in this league, you've got to perform under pressure. He's got that mentality, as well as his coaches."

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