It used to be that adding size to your defensive line was highly desirable, but that has not been the trend over the course of the past decade or so as NFL offenses continue to use more and more three- and four-wide receiver sets, which have defenses countering with smaller and faster defenses.
The Pittsburgh Steelers already have a Big Dan on their roster. Now they’re bringing in Big Pooh, though he’s not quite as big as the name would suggest, in NFL defensive lineman terms. In fact, he is a player who is very much in-line with where the game has shifted.
A 6’3” defensive lineman within the vicinity of about 300 pounds, the Steelers drafted Alabama’s Isaiah Buggs in the sixth round believing that he would be somebody capable of playing up and down the team’s defensive line, both inside and outside, and in the 3-4 front as well as in the nickel and dime. And on the goal line, too, of course.
So how did he end up being called Big Pooh, which he even goes by on Twitter, without irony? He explained that during rookie minicamp, thankfully.
“It’s from my oldest brother”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “because ever since I was small I was kind of chubby and big – so he called me, ‘Pooh Bear.’ So that’s where that name came from ever since”.
Of course, as he grew up—quite a bit, of course—and got into football, Pooh Bear evolved into Big Pooh. Not exactly the most flattering name when you hear it for the first time, but if you know the background, it works, and it’s something he identifies with.
There is a small opening for Big Pooh in the Steelers’ defensive line room after the team chose not to re-sign L.T. Walton, who served as their number six at the position last season. He spent most of 2018 as a healthy scratch, though he was the primary backup to Javon Hargrave in 2017.
The team did not sign anybody to fill Walton’s roster, however, so Buggs figures to have as clear a shot as any to make the roster, and he will be competing with players such as Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, and Greg Gilmore. All three were in training camp last season, though only Hooks remained with the team. He has been on the practice squad for the past two years.
He knows that his game can’t be all size, of course. “You’ve got to know [how to play on] all downs on the upfront”, he said. “They have got a different package for you to be in every situation, so you have got to learn it all”.
He has previously said that he sees an opportunity for himself within the Steelers’ room, and it doesn’t hurt that he will be instructed by Karl Dunbar, who recruited and coached him with the Crimson Tide, though he certainly doesn’t plan to rely upon that.