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
Ordinarily I try to focus on starters through the first wave of this series, but today I’m turning my attention to Isaiah Buggs, the Steelers’ second of three selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. A reserve/rotational defensive lineman out of Alabama, he did have the benefit of having been coached for one year by Karl Dunbar, who was hired by Pittsburgh in 2018.
Buggs’ first challenge was making the 53-man roster, and given how that went for Joshua Frazier, another Dunbar-coached Alabama lineman, just the year before, that wasn’t to be taken as a given. But he proved to be better-prepared for the professional level than his former teammate, who is now retired.
While he showed enough to make the roster with a solid preseason, he was still slated for the bench as a rookie, firmly entrenched behind Tyson Alualu and Daniel McCullers, the veteran nose tackle, as the game-day active reserve defensive linemen.
That changed after Stephon Tuitt’s injury—though not drastically. He still only averaged about 8-10 snaps per game over the course of the rest of the year. That wasn’t enough to get on the stat sheet very much, but you could see the progress that he made from the start of his playing time to the end of the season.
While he bares some similarities to Javon Hargrave, in that he isn’t quite the prototypical size for an end, and he has good quickness and athleticism for his size, it’s not clear what his role will be going forward. The same line short of Hargrave is expected to return next year, but he could be replaced with somebody who will still dress over him.
If he can have a strong offseason, however, I don’t think it should be too hard for him to find a spot in the rotation. In order to earn that spot, he will have to show that he is capable of handling some interior snaps in the base defense, and I don’t think he could handle that in a ‘starting’ capacity.