Merril Hoge let Steelers’ Nation know how he feels about linebacker Devin Bush. In a Friday interview with 93.7 The Fan, Hoge blasted him and his poor 2021 season coming off a torn ACL.
Here’s what Hoge had to say.
“I just think you gotta cut bait there,” he told the show’s Andrew Fillipponi. “He is who he is. He doesn’t play a great instincts. I don’t care if he’s a first rounder. I don’t care if he’s fast. He’s not a very good football player. He doesn’t play smart. He doesn’t play fast. He doesn’t even play with great leverage and technique when he does and he hurts you. There’s nothing he does that helps you. People target him in the passing game. They wear him now. He’s never gotten any better there and he’s not gonna get any better there. “
It’s not the first time Hoge has been this critical of Bush. He made similar comments in December of last year, pointing out Bush’s poor hand use and overall iffy above-the-neck play.
There’s no defending Bush’s actual play last season. He wasn’t alone, but it was an objectively terrible year. He couldn’t get off blocks in the run game, rarely made plays in the pass game, and didn’t look like the explosive linebacker the Steelers not only drafted but traded up to get. By the end of the year, he was losing snaps, removed in dime packages and occasionally rotated off the field.
After such a poor year, Pittsburgh predictably declined the fifth-year option on him. Bush now enters 2022 on the final year of his rookie deal, and will have to turn things around in order to stay with the Steelers. It’s a tough blow for a team who aggressively moved up to trade him in 2020, going up ten spots and trading a pair of Day 2 picks to acquire him. It appears to be the only Colbert first round trade-up that didn’t work out.
In Hoge’s mind, the Steelers should move on immediately.
“You gotta cut bait… you can’t win with that.”
The good news is Bush has a better set of circumstances this year. He’s an extra year removed from his ACL tear and used this offseason to train for football, not rehabbing so doctors could clear him. Even without Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers’ defensive line should be improved compared to a year ago thanks to Tyson Alualu’s return, the progression of guys like Isaiahh Loudermilk, and the team shedding utter liabilities like Isaiah Buggs. Myles Jack is a better starting linebacker than Joe Schobert, which certainly won’t hurt, and Brian Flores’ coaching will be another benefit.
In the five games before his 2020 injury, Bush did show promise and progression, especially in coverage. If he can get back to that level of play, he can turn his career around. If he can’t, he’ll still be playing football in 2023. It just won’t be in Pittsburgh.
Listen to Hoge’s full thoughts below.