It’s not every year that a team drafts two players in the sixth round that generate some buzz before they every take the field. but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first two of three selections in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft have garnered a decent amount of discussions within the fanbase.
The first of those was MAC outside linebacker prospect Sutton Smith, who looks like he might have a pass-rush repertoire he can put in place at the NFL level—provided that his size doesn’t prove to be too much of a hindrance to that end.
The second is Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, who is coming in looking, most likely to compete at best for a game day helmet as the fifth player on the depth chart. But even that could represent a significant upgrade for a defensive line that has been lacking quality depth for several years.
The thing that separates Buggs from other depth linemen in recent years such as L.T. Walton and Cam Thomas is the fact that he can bring something to the table as a pass rusher, recording something like 10 sacks in his final season with the Crimson Tide. They haven’t had a quality pass rush off the bench since Brett Keisel moved into that role in his final season in 2014.
Said the rookie, “there is an opportunity there” in the defensive line room, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I just have to come in and work each and every day like it’s my last day here. That will set the tone for where I need to be”.
As goes without saying, that is a healthy attitude for him to take as he attempts to crack into the NFL as a late-round pick. While Walton’s not being re-signed leaves the sixth defensive line slot available, he will still have to compete for that position with Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, Greg Gilmore, and others. Joshua Frazier, also from Alabama, was a seventh-round pick a year ago and failed to even make the practice squad.
While his defensive line coach with the Steelers also recruited him and then coached him at Alabama—that being of course Karl Dunbar—he has already said that he can’t look at that as a factor in whether or not he’s going to make the roster. He has to take his fate into his own hands. After all, it didn’t work for Frazier, either, his former teammate.
The Steelers have one of the top starting defensive lines among 3-4 teams in the NFL with Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward leading the way, and supplemented by sixth-year Stephon Tuitt bookending him and fourth-year Javon Hargrave in the middle.
While Tyson Alualu as the fourth man represents quality depth with the first man off the bench, a player like Buggs who can offer a pass rush would really help to round out this group and solidify their game day troupe, minus Daniel McCullers.