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
So far, it looks as though the Steelers may have gone two for three hitting on potential contributors on the defensive side of the ball with their three selections in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. While the earliest pick, outside linebacker Sutton Smith, is struggling to contribute due to injury, the other two have made their presence felt so far, most notably Ulysees Gilbert III.
But the man in the middle, Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, came in and has done a nice job as well. He has gotten a bit of work with first-team personnel in the nickel defense at times, and got into Friday’s game fairly early. He did not dominate the stat line, finishing with three tackles and a fumble recovery, but he put some good reps on tape that has been an extension of what he has done at Saint Vincent College.
One thing that is not going to show up on the stat line is the fact that he was able to draw multiple offensive holding penalties. He has shown good speed and strong technical work with his hands, which have given offensive linemen a hard time, especially those who have not been seeing him in practice every day.
It’s still on the early side, with just one look inside of a stadium under his belt so far, but the initial impressions of Buggs indicate that he is going to be a keeper, and that he will be able to contribute rotationally along the defensive line, winning one-on-one matchups as a pass rusher while also being capable of playing the run.
I think the biggest question is how soon his contributes on Sundays. Will Daniel McCullers still be the one to dress as the fifth defensive lineman? Unless they believe Buggs or perhaps Tyson Alualu can take some backup nose tackle reps, that may be how the rookie begins his career, by sitting on the bench and waiting for his chance, unless there are injuries that allow him to dress.