Devin Bush Jr. picked up his phone Thursday night and heard Mike Tomlin ask a question he’d been waiting two years to ask.
Are you ready to be a Pittsburgh Steeler?
“Hell yeah,” Bush replied. “I’m ready.”
Michigan’s junior All-American linebacker went off the board at No. 10 overall in the NFL draft on Thursday night, becoming the highest U-M selection since offensive tackle Jake Long went No. 1 overall in 2008.
And for the Steelers, the wait was long enough.
Pittsburgh didn’t think Bush would be on the board beyond No. 11. So the Steelers opted to move up 10 spots, swapping first-round picks with the Denver Broncos and giving up a second-round choice in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020 for the right to take the player they entered the draft wanting the most.
“We identified Devin even going back into last year, watching him (as a sophomore at Michigan),” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Thursday night. “We scouted him extensively. We had four different people go in, myself included. We saw him play live games. We visited him at the combine. We visited with him the night before his pro day. Attended his pro day.
“This is a quality, quality young man and an excellent football player.”
The Steelers — who began the draft with 10 picks before making the move — jumped at the opportunity to grab who most believe is a prototype for the new wave of inside linebackers in the NFL. Bush ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine this winter. He measured in at 5-foot-11, 234 pounds. He can play sideline to sideline and cover.
He made plays everywhere at Michigan and Pittsburgh knew it.
Both Tomlin and Colbert said they spent time talking to as many Michigan players as they could and wound up hearing the same thing more often than not: Bush was the leader of the defense, one of the country’s top outfits over the last two years.
“He’s an all-situation linebacker,” Tomlin said. “We’re equally as fired up about his intangibles. He comes from a football family, he’s a football guy. Everyone speaks very highly of him as a player and a person.
“We interviewed a lot of Michigan players during the draft process and it was unanimous of who their unquestioned leader was. The position he plays is like a defensive quarterback, that’s something that comes very natural to him.”
Pittsburgh is still in the process of replacing Ryan Shazier, who suffered a likely career-ending injury two years ago.
Colbert said the trade was a logical move, as Bush was high enough on Pittsburgh’s board that the entire organization believed giving up two picks was worth it.
This was the third time in Colbert’s tenure as the Steelers’ general manager that he opted to trade up for a draft pick. The previous two moves netted Pittsburgh Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes.
Those players both helped the franchise win a Super Bowl.
Colbert is hoping Bush, who Tomlin said will have a chance to play early with the franchise, can do the same.
“We’ll see,” he said. “If Devin helps us win a Super Bowl, it’ll be very similar.”
As for Bush?
He’s ready to get to work.
“I think I’m a good fit because I love to win, and this team wants to win,” he said. “I’m a guy that loves to win and just put me in the team nucleus. Being able to put a guy that loves to win, you know that’s how effective he’s going to be.
“Have a winning attitude, go to practice to win so that’s what they’re looking for.”