Steelers Defense Looking for Strong Communication With Bush and Williams

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- Devin Bush will enter his second year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he returns to training camp to rejoin his team.

Last season, Bush played 889 defensive snaps for the Steelers, working with Vince Williams and Mark Barron as the three inside linebackers to take a majority of the reps. After the team released Barron this spring, Williams and Bush are set to take the reigns in the middle.

"Him and Vince [Williams] will be playing inside linebacker for us this year," Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler told media on zoom. 

Butler is looking for Bush to take on an even larger role for the defense this season. As a second-year player, Bush will begin learning play-calling to help assist in communication.

"Of course, you want him to make a good jump for us," Butler said on Bush's progression. "I think he will because things won't be new to him. He's done it before, and when he comes to training camp, we're going to expect more out of him. We're going to want him to help make calls and get communication down. And we think he's capable of doing that."

Last season, Bush tallied 109 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. The Defensive Rookie of the Year finalist told media earlier this offseason that, if needed, he'll play every snap in year two. 

For Butler, he didn't say whether the plan was for Bush and Williams to take on that significant of a workload, but is expecting more from the inside linebacker this season. 

"He played well for us last year as a rookie, but once you've been there; he's seen the game a little bit, he knows the speed of the game, he knows what we're going to call for the most part," Butler said. "He's got an idea of what we're going to expect from him, so we're hopeful he's going to have a good year for us this year." 

Vince Williams will also take on a bigger role in 2020, after spending last season playing a smaller rep count than usual. Compared to his first two years as a starter, Williams totaled just 37% of the team's defensive snaps, down from over 70% the prior two years.

This season, the team decided to stick with Bush and Williams as the starting inside backers due to the particular skills they bring with their football I.Q.

"Because he's a great communicator," Butler answers to why the team chose to go with Williams this season. "We went and looked at our film and kind of grade ourselves. We felt like our communication, if anything went wrong with our defense it was really our communication, and really our secondary communication - there's primary and secondary communication. Which starts at the first part of the play, and as the play starts to play out a little bit, you have to make adjustments. And Vince [Williams] is real good at doing that for us and getting the calls to the guys and making sure they know that we're all on the same page."

A more hard-nosed linebacker than Bush, Williams' skill set excites the Steelers, who believe the two will work well this season.

"He's very physical. We feel like that if we get him one-on-one with a back that he's going to win that," Butler said on Williams. "We feel like he's a good rusher of the passer. We feel like he can cover, maybe not as good as Devin [Bush], but he does a sufficient job for us. We'll see when we get to different personnel groups and see what offenses give us, how we'll use our personnel." 

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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