The connection between defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar is an easy one to spot on the surface. Buggs joined Alabama in 2017 where Dunbar was the defensive line coach at the time. Dunbar left Alabama to become the Steelers defensive line coach in 2018 and now he will be reunited with Buggs, as he was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round. While this story may sound like a typical reunion, the connection between the two goes much deeper than that.
Coming out of high school, Buggs had zero NCAA offers. His only legitimate option was heading to junior college with the hopes of landing an NCAA offer in a couple years. He elected to go the JUCO route, playing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons before attracting attention from top division one schools.
The decision came down to LSU or Alabama.
It seemed like an easy decision for Buggs to make. He was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana. It would be a dream for the hometown kid to play for the NCAA superpower that is LSU, but that is where Coach Dunbar comes into the picture.
According to Tide Sports, a visit from Coach Dunbar to the Buggs residence convinced the talented defensive lineman to join the Crimson Tide instead.
Buggs only played one season under Dunbar at Alabama, recording 51 tackles, four tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks before Dunbar departed for the Steelers’ job. It was in his senior year that the defensive lineman really put himself on the map, finishing with 52 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Little did he know at the time but Buggs had just put himself back on Dunbar’s and the Steelers’ radar.
The duo would meet again at this year’s NFL Combine as Dunbar put various defensive linemen through on field drills. Buggs was one of the first linemen up.
After the Combine, it would be up to fate to decide whether a potential reunion between Buggs and Dunbar would occur. As fate would have it, the Alabama defensive lineman was still available as the Steelers were preparing to use the second of their three sixth round selections. The Steelers promptly selected Buggs with their selection and Dunbar was beyond pleased with the selection.
“We were surprised that he was still on the board in the sixth round and we jumped at the opportunity. He was one of the emotional leaders down at Alabama,” says Dunbar.
Buggs was just as eager to be the newest member of the Steelers organization and be reunited with his former college coach.
“He’s a great coach. He taught me everything I now, the ins and the outs. I’m excited to go work for him again,” says Buggs.
It seems far fetched that a story that began in Ruston, Louisiana would come full circle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but that was exactly the case for the duo. While just over two years ago, Dunbar was able to lead Buggs to Alabama, he has now managed to lead the Steelers back to Buggs.