The Pittsburgh Steelers are just one preseason game away from the real action beginning. But that is one big game for many players on the 90-man roster to assure that they get on the 53. Some may be inside the roster bubble, but they still have to put the final touches on their place on the team, holding off competition.
One such player is Isaiah Buggs, the sixth-round pick out of Alabama along the defensive line. He is the favorite to fill the roster spot vacated by L.T. Walton, who served as the team’s fifth or sixth defensive lineman for the past four years.
As many rookies do, Buggs opened training camp toward the bottom of the depth chart, but he has slowly worked his way up the ranks, to the point where he now gets in some reps with the first-team unit during practices, something that we saw toward the end of training camp, according to Alex Kozora.
One thing that has admittedly helped him is the fact that his position coach, Karl Dunbar, also coached him while he was on the Crimson Tide in 2016 and 2017 before he took the job he now occupies with the Steelers.
He is, of course, the second player the team has drafted that he coached, the first being Joshua Frazier in the seventh round in 2018. But he not only failed to make the 53-man roster, he was also not re-signed to the practice squad. He ended up participating in the AAF and later chose to retire to pursue other possibilities.
Buggs is hoping to change that, and he’s taking it just a step at a time. “Each and every day, I just come out and do my job, what I am supposed to do, what the coaches ask of me”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And they see I can do things their way, so they’ve put me with a lot of reps with the ‘1s.’ As long as I continue to develop and be the player I need to be, I’ll be all right”.
While he does still have some pressure from the likes of Henry Mondeaux and Casey Sayles, the most likely outcome heading into tonight’s game is that Buggs will be judged one of the top six defensive linemen on the team and will be carried on the 53-man roster.
The question at that point becomes when and how much he will play. He will have to compete with Daniel McCullers as the fifth and final defensive lineman to dress during games, and McCullers has had his best preseason to date. He may also be the only other one adequately capable of playing nose tackle. So expect Buggs to spend a lot of time on the bench this year.