We really need him,Browns owner on Devin Bush Jr., former Steelers first-rounder, who just sign a 1-year deal

CLEVELAND, Ohio — If Browns new linebacker Devin Bush Jr. needs some directions around the team facility or even some tips on where to grab a bite in town after signing his one-year deal here on Thursday, he can always ask his dad, Devin Bush Sr.

The elder Bush played free safety for the Browns in the early years of their comeback, starting seven games in 2001 and nine in 2002. The 2002 season was the year the fledgling Browns went 9-7, finished second in the AFC North, and lost in the wild card round to the Steelers, 36-33, in a wild shootout.
Of course, no one knew at the time that the Browns would go another 18 years before making the playoffs again in 2020, where they headed back to Pittsburgh for the wild card round again and this time knocked them off 48-37 in another improbable TD-fest.

But Bush’s father isn’t his only impactful connection to the Browns: his promising NFL career took a turn for the worse in a game against the Browns in 2020, but now he can try to get himself back on track on the other end of the Turnpike rivalry.

The No. 10 overall pick by the Steelers in 2019 out of Michigan made a free-agent visit to the Browns on Thursday in hopes of returning to the AFC North, and signed a one-year contract with them later in the afternoon, a league source told cleveland.com.

Bush, 25, joins another new linebacker in Jordan Hicks, who signed a two-year free-agent deal with the Browns on Wednesday. The two will help replace middle linebackers Sione Takitaki and Anthony Walker Jr. who were allowed to walk in free agency, Takitaki signing with the Patriots and Walker, the Dolphins.
“That’s exciting news,” Hicks said of Bush’s signing on a video conference. “You look at JOK and his natural ability. I mean, he’s all over the field. I’ve watched him for years now. Got a ton of respect for his game, and obviously have played against and competed against Devin Bush multiple times. So got a lot of respect for those guys, excited to get in the room and get back established, get back to playing football, because that’s what we do this for.”

He acknowledged that the three can form a dynamic linebacking duo, with speed, coverage ability excellent tackling, and veteran experience.

“Extremely,” Hicks said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it. Obviously, you’ve got to earn it day in and day out. But I think if a group like that wants it bad enough, you can be as good as you want.”

Bush was off to a great start in Pittsburgh before suffering a torn ACL in the second quarter of a 38-7 victory over the Browns in 2020, and hasn’t been the same since. The Browns are hoping he can rekindle some of that rookie magic in a Browns uniform.
After the Steelers traded up to draft Bush in 2020, sending the 20th (first round), 52nd (second round) and 83rd (third round) overall picks to the Broncos to move up to No. 10, Bush registered 31 tackles and sack in his first three starts as a rookie, and lived up to his first round status that season. He notched 109 tackles, nine for a loss, four passes defensed and two interceptions. He was third in NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

An inside ‘backer, Bush (5-foot-11, 234 pounds) was off to another great start in 2020, starting the first five games of the season, all victories, before suffering the torn ACL vs. the Browns in Week 6 while diving to try to tackle running back D’Ernest Johnson. Bush was carted off and lost for the season, never to reach that peak level again. He returned in 2021, making 70 tackles and two sacks in his 14 starts, but he was clearly still working his way back from the injury.

In 2022, the Steelers declined his fifth-year option in the spring, yet he went on to make 81 tackles in his 14 starts, knowing he wasn’t in their long-range plans.
“I wish I knew, but to this day, I have no answer,” Bush said then on the Ian Furness Show podcast. “What I can say is that when one door closes another one opens so I am excited for the opportunity. The way I felt about it was I knew it was a business. It told me that I wasn’t in the future of the Steelers [plans] so that’s fine. There’s 31 other teams out there, Seattle is one of them and now look where I am at.”

The Steelers let Bush walk in free agency last offseason, and he signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks worth $3.5 million. But Bush wasn’t able to rebuild his career there the way he hoped. A healthy scratch in four games in the first half of the season, he didn’t make much of an impact until the final three games, when he recorded 30 tackles, including four for a loss. His 76.2 tackling grade by Pro Football Focus ranked 19th among 92 qualifying linebackers.

The linebacker room will have a whole new look in 2024 with the emergence of Owusu-Koramoah, and the additions of Hicks and Bush. And if all goes as planned, Bush will make the Steelers regret letting him go.

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