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: DL Isaiah Buggs
Stock Value: Up
You’re not going to get a ton of meaningful feedback about the defensive line through the spring, which consists entirely of on-field work without shoulder pads, so no serious hitting. Nevertheless, there is a difference when it comes to a lineman who possesses some athleticism.
At the very least, they should be able to look the part in that regard in shorts, and what limited reporting that we have seen on Buggs has suggested that at the very least he fit that profile, even if it’s only the first step for him.
For recently, we saw him on social media, featured in a training video showing that he is getting work done right now, still four weeks out from training camp. Buggs returned to his hometown following mandatory minicamp, but he is getting that work in.
Drafted in the sixth round, the Alabama alumnus has an open roster spot available to him, should he earn it, because the Steelers elected not to re-sign L.T. Walton, who completed his four-year rookie contract upon the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Walton had a solid second season in 2016 when he was working as a backup defensive end, but he struggled more when they tried to make him the number two nose tackle to Javon Hargrave over Daniel McCullers a year later. He hardly played in 2018, and showed no interest in bringing him back. Perhaps because he is very limited as a pass rusher.
That is one thing Buggs showed he can do at the college level, especially during his final season, and the Steelers would love to have somebody who can come in off the bench to do that, whether from a 1-, 3-, or 5-tech position. They expect him to play up and down the line.
Should he fail to impress, however, he could be unseated by an underdog such as Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, and Greg Gilmore, all of whom were in training camp already last year. Hooks spent the past two seasons on the practice squad. The latter two played in the AAF earlier this year.