That set in motion the possibility the 24-year-old linebacker could realize a football dream.
Not playing with the Seahawks.
Playing with Bobby Wagner on the Seahawks.
The day Bush left Pittsburgh and signed with Seattle last month, Bush Jr. and his dad, former NFL first-round draft choice Devin Bush Senior, reminded themselves Wagner was still unsigned as a free agent.
“Me and my dad were actually talking about it when I signed with Seattle. Bobby was still out there in free agency, and we were just playing around, saying it was a possibility,” Bush said Thursday on an online Zoom call with Seattle-area reporters.
Bush signed his one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Seahawks on March 16.
Wagner signed back with Seattle after his year away, nine days after Bush got his deal. The 32-year-old Wagner signed for one year and $5.5 million to play next to Bush in Seattle’s remade defense in 2023.
“Once it happened, it was kind of like a dream come true,” Bush said. “I can say that he’s a potential Hall of Famer.
“And to be able to play alongside of him, I can’t ask for a better situation than that.”
Coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks hope they feel the same way by the end of this year.
Bush turns 25 this summer. He was the 10th-overall choice of the Steelers in 2019, out of Michigan. He became the first Pittsburgh rookie with 100 tackles his first season. Then a torn anterior-cruciate ligament ended his 2020 season after five games.
He wasn’t the same in the Steelers defense after that.
“I had my ups and downs,” Bush said. “I think I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about this business, and I learned about what I want out of it. I thank the Steelers for taking a chance on me and I thank them for the four years that I had. ...
“It was a lot. It was my first time getting surgery and my first time missing a season in my whole entire career, even from being 7 years old. It was all new to me. Everything was all new. Everything was coming so fast, and everything was moving fast.”
Bush’s ‘nerve-racking’ route to Seattle
Pittsburgh last spring decided not to pick up his possible fifth-year contract option as a first-round pick. Then after the 2022 season the Steelers let his rookie deal expire. That made him a free agent last month, for the first time in his career.
“The process was good. It was definitely nerve-racking, you had no clue,” Bush said. “The Seahawks came into play, and I know that they liked me coming out (of Michigan) in 2019. I got on the phone with Coach Carroll a couple of times. We talked, and we spoke frequently.
“Ultimately when I got out there in Seattle, I felt like I was around a bunch of good guys. Coach Carroll is obviously defensive minded and I’m a defensive player, so that’s a good match. I just felt like they were all about competition.”
Carroll’s all about competition, always. But this year, at linebacker, the coach has to be.
The Seahawks’ two starting inside linebackers from last season aren’t available entering the coming preseason. Jordyn Brooks, who replaced Wagner last year after the Seahawks released Wagner to save $16.6 million in salary-cap space for 2022, is recovering from a torn ACL in his knee. He got hurt Jan. 1. Those injuries often take nine to 12 months to come back from. Cody Barton signed with Washington this week, after the Seahawks let his rookie contract expire.
Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, another starter from last season’s Seahawks, is unsigned. He is unsure if he wants to play in 2023 past his 36th birthday.
The plan is for Wagner and Bush to start the season side by inside, with 2022 sack leader Uchenna Nwosu returning at outside linebacker.
“I haven’t spoken, scheme wise, with anybody. If I had to take my guess, me and Bobby are going to be next to each other,” Bush said, “and I think that’s all that really matters at this point.
“I feel like with him being such a veteran and me being a veteran myself, we can kind of feed off of each other and I think that we can play in multiple spots.”
Not done yet on defense
The Seahawks have five picks in the first 83 selections of this month’s draft, including the fifth and 20th picks in round one April 27, to find another pass-rushing outside linebacker opposite Nwosu.
Will Anderson of Alabama is the most accomplished edge rusher in this draft. Seattle could get its bookend pass rusher at five — and have him under an affordable rookie contract for the next four years at a very expensive position in the NFL.
Bush loves that Seattle has already taken care of the sport’s most expensive and important position for 2023. That’s quarterback.
The Seahawks re-signed 2022 Pro Bowl QB Geno Smith to a three-year deal worth a base of $75 million. Smith’s incentive-filled deal gave Seattle the financial flexibility under the salary cap to make the subsequent contracts for Bush and Wagner possible.
Smith’s deal came a week before Bush’s with Seattle.
“I know that they just signed Geno back, so they have a quarterback,” Bush said. “Everybody needs a quarterback in the NFL to win, so I felt like it was a growing opportunity.
“I feel like there is something special brewing there. And I want to be a part of it.
“As of right now, I’m on the other side of my injury. I dealt with it. I’ve been through it, and I’m feeling a lot better.
“I’m feeling like I have never felt before, honestly. I just can’t wait to get out there and showcase my talent.”