Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush was recognized for his achievement of the 2021 Ed Block Courage Award winner. Each year since 1984, an NFL player from each team is voted by their peers who demonstrates commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage, both on and off the field. These players are ones who have faced adversity either personally or professionally and have overcome those headwinds. This award is named after Ed Block, who was a Purple Heart recipient in World War II and served as the head athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts from 1954 to 1977. After coming back after a season-ending ACL tear in 2020, Bush was voted by his teammates as the Steelers’ award recipient. When asked about his first thoughts after learning he was voted, Bush replied:
“It’s one of those one-time things you want to win,” he explained. “It does feel good to know your peers acknowledge the work you did to play football again, to overcome an adversity you were faced with. That is the good and bad part of it. You just don’t want to have to be injured so that you do win it.”
“You don’t want to have to be injured so that you do win it,” is a key phrase people clung to. Coming off a major injury and surgery is no easy feat, not to mention amidst a pandemic with very strict protocols. As a young player who had an impressive rookie season only to have to sit out the majority of the following season, Bush admitted he had a lot of trouble keeping a positive attitude throughout the rehab process:
“There were some days I felt like I was just here in Pittsburgh, just someone living here and not like being here for football,” he acknowledged. “That was tough. The protocols were a tough part of it. There were times I didn’t see my teammates as much. It was tough with everything going on. The isolation sucked really bad. It was tough.” He concluded by saying, “Watching the game from a different perspective was tough. At some points I felt like I wasn’t even on the team. It was just tough.”
It is clear Bush worked hard to get back to playing condition and Head Coach Mike Tomlin recognized that. Coach Tomlin was on hand at the presentation luncheon and watched like a proud father as Bush accepted the award. Tomlin took some time to talk about Bush’s work ethic in returning to the playing field:
“He is a football lover. And he can’t hide it,” he said. “It helps give him a winning edge in terms of facing the adversity that the game presents. He loves every component of the game. He likes practice. He likes walkthrough. He likes film sessions… I think that’s the spirit in which he attacked his rehabilitation and that’s why he’s out there doing some of the things that he’s doing.”
Now I know what some fans are thinking; looking at the 8 games in which he’s played in 2021, Bush clearly isn’t the top 10 draft pick from 2019. He still looks to be playing a bit gun shy and is getting lost in plays that he didn’t used to. This may be true, but there is also some perspective that should be acknowledged as well. Statistically speaking, Bush is having an effective season when rushing the quarterback compared to his first (we’ll call it) one-and-a-half seasons. So far through 8 games played, Bush has posted 41 total tackles, 2 sacks, 4 hits on the quarterback, and a forced fumble. Just looking at 2019 after the full season, he finished with 109 total tackles, 2 hits on the quarterback, a single sack, a single forced fumble, but 2 interceptions. Although his tackling and overall ball pursuit has been suspect this year, he still has more tackles than Von Miller (22), Myles Garrett (34), and Matt Judon (37), just to name a few others.
Bush and the rest of the beat-up Steelers defense is preparing this week for a tough Week 11 matchup at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.
Who do you think should have won the Ed Block award? What do you think of Bush’s play so far in 2021? Let us know in the comments!