The Pittsburgh Steelers in the long run may turn out to be pretty pleased with their sixth-round selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, and that is with their top pick in the round struggling to contribute due to injury. The other two selections in the round, however, made a nice accounting of themselves during training camp, and then took that into the preseason debut.
We have already talked about Ulysees Gilbert III, so next we’re going to look at Isaiah Buggs, who has been mixed in with the first-team nickel defense as training camp has gone on. Most of the plays will be from the second quarter.
Midway through, Buggs actually drew two offensive holding penalties in a span of three plays. One of them took an assisted tackle off the board from him. Here, he does a nice job of shedding the left tackle as the run goes to the left. If he doesn’t get held, this is probably a solo tackle, maybe even for a loss, rather than an assist for no gain, but the penalty negated it anyway.
A few plays later, he once again makes quick work of the left tackle, shedding and swimming over him as the right defensive end in a 3-4 front. He was credited with an assisted tackle, Javon Hargrave getting the primary, on a one-yard gain on first and 14 from deep within the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ own end.
Arguably the attribute Buggs possesses that has been most discussed is his mobility and athleticism for his size, relatively speaking. While he didn’t contribute much to the pass rush on his play, his quick reaction to the loose ball on Tyler Matakevich’s strip sack is impressive. And considering the number of forced fumbles they failed to recover on defense, perhaps not as insignificant as you might think.
Later, in the third quarter, he showed well against the run yet again, stacking the left tackle and being able to come off the block as the back, Andre Ellington, came around the C Gap. Perhaps you might want to see him keep his feet a bit better here, but the structure of making the play is in place. He was not credited with an assist here.
While this article focuses on a few plays that he had against the run, Buggs did have his ‘wins’ in the pass rush as well, and that will most likely be his ticket to playing time, if that should happen. The Steelers haven’t had a defensive lineman able to come off the bench and offer a spark in the pass rush in five years. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can build on this debut performance.