The Pittsburgh Steelers traded their first and second round picks in 2019, and a third round pick in 2020, to move up ten spots and draft Devin Bush. The team determined they needed an athletic inside linebacker they had been missing ever since the Ryan Shazier injury. Two and a half seasons later, the jury is still out on whether or not this move worked out. After a very good rookie season with over 100 tackles and 2 interceptions, things have not gone well for the Steelers linebacker. Bush missed most of 2020 with a knee injury. Almost half way through the 2021 season, he has not been anywhere near as impactful as the Steelers had hoped.
We all know hindsight is a big advantage when evaluating drafts. Having said that, the Steelers would have had an opportunity to draft some pretty special talents had they stayed at 20. The team was clearly interested in adding a receiver as they drafted Diontae Johnson with their very next pick. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_NFL_Draft A couple of Ole Miss receivers would still have been on the board for the Steelers. AJ Brown and DK Metcalf both were still on the available at pick twenty. Deebo Samuel was another talented receiver available to Pittsburgh had they stayed put.
Besides receiver, there were other positions available to the Steelers as well. Josh Jacobs would have been another option in the first round. How would that have changed the 2021 draft if the team didn’t desperately need a running back? Pittsburgh could have addressed the needs at offensive line much earlier. They could have also drafted a corner to eventually replace the aging Joe Haden. There no shortage of needs for this franchise heading into the 2021 draft.
Another interesting ‘what if” would have been Darnell Savage who went 21st overall. While he might not be at the All-Pro level that Minkah Fitzpatrick has been, Savage is no slouch. He has seven career interceptions in two and a half seasons with the Packers. Drafting him instead of Bush would have certainly meant no Fitzpatrick trade. Which in turn would have meant the Steelers keeping their first round pick in 2020. Having that pick would have opened the door to players like Patrick Queen, Tee Higgins, Jonathan Taylor, and several more.
The trade that allowed the Steelers to draft Devin Bush set of a chain of interesting dominos. Had they not made the trade, this team could very well look completely different. There is however no doubt they desperately needed an inside linebacker who could cover at that time. It was without question the top priority in 2019. Devin Bush still has time to prove he was worth the amount of draft capital to acquire him. We have to acknowledge there is a very real possibility that he is not fully recovered from the knee surgery he had last season. We may have to wait until next season, or at least late into 2021, before we see the real Devin Bush. If and when that happens, we will finally be able to determine if the trade was a success.