Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: NT Daniel McCullers
Stock Value: Down
While the addition of former Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs is not likely to play a key role in whether or not Daniel McCullers will retain a roster spot for his sixth NFL season, the rookie’s presence in the locker room could very well play a role in how much playing time the big man sees.
Buggs is not necessarily a lightweight, but his size and athleticism gears him more toward the pass rush than run defense, though he can play the run when he has his hand work going and he doesn’t have to log an abundance of snaps.
He would be a much more suitable player to dress as the fifth defensive lineman than would be McCullers, who has more or less alternated between being the top interior backup and the lineman who doesn’t dress on Sundays throughout his career.
Last season was one of the ‘up’ years in which he did get to play that role, though it still didn’t translate to a lot of on-field opportunities and statistical output. The season before that, he was beaten out by L.T. Walton to be the interior backup because they preferred his versatility to play inside and outside.
The coaches view Buggs as a player with similar versatility but also with more upside and who actually has a pass-rushing repertoire, which he put on display last season for the Crimson Tide in helping him record nine and a half sacks.
While it wasn’t much of a boost to Joshua Frazier last year, the fact that defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has worked with Buggs before and should have a pretty good idea of who he is as a player will be an advantage to him. it also means that he’ll already be familiar with some of the elements of the system in which he’ll be playing.
If he shows some competence, he should relegated McCullers to the inactive list this season, and perhaps even get some situational preference over Tyson Alualu, who is a limited pass rusher.