Most times, and I could fill this article with a list of names, players drop weight from their first to second year. They realize they’re too heavy, not conditioned enough, and want more mobility than size. That’s the way the NFL is going, after all.
Isaiah Buggs, like his play, is ahead of the curve. According to the PPG’s Brian Batko, Buggs has dropped 20-25 pounds, down the 295. He spoke with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, an article that centered around the Steelers’ defensive line rotation, but included this nugget on the rookie.
“According to Dunbar, Buggs arrived in Pittsburgh between 315 and 320 pounds and is now down to 295. But he still has ‘some work to do.’”
At the 2019 NFL Combine, Buggs weighed in at 6’3, 306. Now, it’s about ten pounds lighter from there. It’s allowed him to play with more quickness, more hip flexibility, and a larger impact as a pass rusher overall. He’s continually impressed in camp and at Heinz Field, earning first team reps near the end of the team’s time in Latrobe in sessions where Cam Heyward or Stephon Tuitt sat out.
Dunbar didn’t divulge what exactly Buggs has to do but said the mandate to drop weight was part of the plan. His run defense has been a little suspect in taking on double-teams and combo blocks, his lack of length works against him, though he’s done well to create space in the run game to stack, shed, and attack the runner. Staying square to the line will be the key for him.
Despite his impressive start, it will be tough for Buggs to find a consistent role this year. He’s comfortably on the 53 man roster but will probably spend much of the year inactive. Tyson Alualu is the trusted veteran while Daniel McCullers has improved and will be Javon Hargrave’s backup at nose tackle. But when injury strikes, and it inevitably will, he figures to get a hat and some NFL exposure.
But if all goes well, Buggs may make a serious push to be Heyward and Tuitt’s backup and potentially push Alualu off the roster come 2020.