Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: DL Isaiah Buggs
Stock Value: Up
The Steelers had not used a draft pick earlier than the seventh round on a defensive lineman since since 2015 when they used a sixth-round pick on L.T. Walton before they drafted Isaiah Buggs earlier this year. Yet another sixth-round selection (also joining Daniel McCullers in that group, and replacing Walton), the Alabama product has been looking as advertised so far.
You can’t ask for more out of a sixth-round pick in his rookie training camp, to be sure. They thought that he might be able to add something as a pass rusher, and his early work in Latrobe has indeed indicated that he may be able to deliver on that front.
Alex Kozora made special note of him following the team’s last open practice before tonight’s game, writing that he has shown up in every practice and arguing that the six-man defensive line is pretty much already locked in, with Tyson Alualu, McCullers, and Buggs rounding out the group.
The rookie has been showing up in multiple phases, making some stops against the run, generating pressure on the pass rusher, and even showing the awareness in his lane to get his hand up to bat a pass at the line of scrimmage.
In other words, he is pretty much doing everything that Joshua Frazier was not doing last year. Granted, they were never intended to be the same sort of player, but Buggs’ preparedness to step into an NFL training camp appears night and day in comparison to the other Alabama draft pick, who admittedly was a sparsely-used backup.
This rookie has come in with a big more polish and finesse, the latter of which has been sorely lacking among the Steelers’ backup offensive linemen for many years now. They have not had a lineman who can come off the bench and offer something in the pass rush since Brett Keisel transitioned into a reserve role in his final season.
Buggs can solidify his roster spot with a good preseason, and that process starts tonight. Now he’ll actually get the chance to really get after the quarterback, so a takedown or two would certainly be a nice sight to see as he looks to fend off Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, Henry Mondeaux, and the rest of the field.