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All Hands on Deck At Michigan Pro Day

On Friday the Michigan Wolverines hosted their Pro Day for potential NFL players to showcase their ability up close to NFL teams and scouts.

The Steelers had all hands and eyes on deck. General Manager Kevin Colbert, and coach Mike Tomlin were there along with several other members of the coaching staff. Usually when the Steelers bring the whole house it tends to tip their hand. In the past they’ve brought everyone to Wisconsin’s Pro Day in 2017 (TJ Watt) and to Virginia Tech last year when they eventually drafted Terrell Edmunds.

The Wolverines have several potential candidates for the Steelers all over the field. That starts with middle linebacker Devin Bush. Bush could be the play making speed linebacker that the Steelers have longed for since Ryan Shazier was lost.

Bush is compatible to Shazier in every way possible. Both have the speed to cover sideline to sideline and both have a way of finding the ball carrier.

Strengths

Compact lower body with a filled-out frame
Trusts his eyes
Rarely gets trapped due to false steps
Good patience with feel for run-blocking development
Body control and balance through contact are very good
Uncorks on climbers and iso-blocks with sharp, leveraged hand strikes
Proactive with hands to balance against wash-down blocks
Strong legs drive through upright blockers
Has GPS to maneuver around traffic in flows to the football
Sideline-to-sideline runner
Has speed to carry third-down backs into flats and up the sideline
Posted 11 passes defensed over last two seasons
Disguises launch point as blitzer
Slippery rusher who can knife through gaps and dip around edges

Weaknesses

Lands below size standards as inside linebacker
Average reaction time in early response
Slow to process and diagnose against misdirection
Big boys can swallow him on second level
Needs to mitigate size concerns with more downhill shots
Too many block challenges and not enough block slips
Will require better pursuit leverage and feel for angles
Runs himself out of tackle attempts by coming in too steep
Out of position when he starts guessing rather than responding
Misses out on tackles in space due to lack of length

Bush could be the target in the first round by the Steelers. It’s likely they could need to move up to get him, though. While it’s possible Bush could be on the board when the Steelers are set to pick at no. 20, the lack of middle linebacker prospects make it a risk to stay put. A team like Baltimore could be looking to jump ahead of the Steelers to select Bush after losing CJ Mosley to the New York Jets.

The Steelers really have no choice but to fill the glaring need in the middle during the draft. They need a dynamic playmaker in the middle. There isn’t any of those available in free agency. They also need depth after losing LJ Fort to the Eagles. Bush could answer the first problem. They’ll likely need to find depth in the middle rounds.

Draft the Pittsburgh kid

Pass rusher Chase Winovich is climbing up draft boards after a solid work out on Friday. He also had the eye of several Steelers scouting. Including one with the last name Rooney.

Winovich is a yinzer. He’s a graduate from Thomas Jefferson high school, and coming back home to play for the Steelers would be a dream come true.

The Steelers love the tweeners. They always have. You can go back to Mike Vrabel, or as recent as Anthony Chickillo. Winovich played defensive and in college, but would transition to outside linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 defense.

“For me, it was just a matter of going out and showing A, endurance, and B, that I can play both positions,” Winovich said about his Pro Day. “And you’ve always got something to prove. You know, I’m always a chip-on-the-shoulder guy. So you’re always out there trying to present the best form of yourself.”

Strengths

Rabid, physical play demeanor
Fueled by a chip on his shoulder and a gas tank full of energy
Good first-step quickness
Punches and works to the edge for quick discards at point of attack
Seamless inside attacks to disrupt as one-gapper
Plays his role in the scheme and willing to do dirty work
Urgent feet and good pursuit mobility
Slams into ball carriers and tries to leave a mark
Adequate upfield rush burst
Challenges edge with forward lean and swatting hands
Decent flexion to rip and bend edge
Slides to inside counter without slowing
Feet won’t allow him to linger as a rusher

Weaknesses

Hard-charging style dulls awareness and instincts
Tendency to play through a straw and lose sight of the ball
Attacks feet first, hands second too often
Lacks effective counter to disengage once he gets wired up
Just average in setting edge and containing outside runs
Tackles can reach and cave him
Plays a little flat-footed in space
Could face challenge if forced into 3-4 OLB role
Kamikaze rush approach limits timing for counters
Needs to fine-tune more efficient path to quarterback
His transitions inside the rush lack fluidity.

Winovich’s stock has gone up and he will likely be a day two selection. Don’t count out the Steelers going back to back with Wolverines. Winovich could also be there when the Steelers come on to the clock with their first selection in the third round.

Re-tooling the linebacker position has taken over as a priority after the team signed cornerback Steven Nelson in free agency. They could get everything they need to do that if they double dip from Michigan.

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