2019 Offseason Questions: Can Isaiah Buggs Be The 5th Defensive Lineman?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.

How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Can Isaiah Buggs be the fifth defensive lineman?

The Steelers for the first time since 2015 used a draft pick earlier than the seventh round on a defensive lineman when they drafted Isaiah Buggs back in April, although that was only in the sixth. With a roster spot open with the departure of L.T. Walton, he is likely to make the roster, but whether or not he will dress, let alone play, is another conversation.

He’s not exactly a lock to make the roster, but there are no indications that he will be another Joshua Frazier just yet, so for the time being, let’s assume that he progresses well enough to earn his spot. The next question is, will he play on Sundays?

What this is essentially asking is whether or not the Steelers believe he, or possibly Tyson Alualu, is capable of playing nose tackle behind Javon Hargrave, because you of course need at least two bodies capable of playing inside on game day. The other half of the conversation is if doing this is better than having Daniel McCullers active.

When they drafted Buggs, they did say that they believe he can play up and down the line. I don’t think he has been used along the interior very much so far through camp. Greg Gilmore has been running as the third-team nose tackle, for example.

The motivation for getting Buggs a helmet would be if he lives up to his college scouting report indicating an ability to gain penetrating from the interior. He showed that a bit last night while recording a sack against Devlin Hodges. If he keep doing that, he’ll have a chance. Otherwise he’ll spend the year as a healthy scratch, or even leave the door open for a Lavon Hooks or Casey Sayles or Gilmore.

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