The 2020 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2019 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work from.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Robert Spillane and Tevin Jones because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with 10 selections, including two in the third round and three in the sixth, but ended up trading their second-round pick to move up in the first round. They received additional third- and fifth-round picks for trading Antonio Brown, a sixth for Marcus Gilbert, and the other sixth was part of the Ryan Switzer trade the year before.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Isaiah Buggs
Draft Status: Sixth Round (192nd overall)
Starts: 0 (9 games)
A sixth-round pick out of Alabama, Isaiah Buggs made the 53-man roster as the Steelers’ sixth-man along the defensive line, behind Tyson Alualu and Daniel McCullers as the primary reserves. After Stephon Tuitt suffered a season-ending injury in Week Six, however, the door opened for Buggs to dress for the rest of the season, and to get a small amount of playing time.
As indicated by his snap count total listed above, his opportunities were not plentiful by any means. He never played more than 13 snaps in a single game (his first), and he only played double-digit snaps in four of his nine games for which he was active (he missed the Week 15 game against the Bills).
In spite of limited opportunities to contribute, his small number of snaps did show some gradual improvement and refinement in his performance as the year progressed. He only registered three tackles on the season, registering one each in the final two games. He logged 17 total snaps between the two contests.
With Javon Hargrave departing in free agency, and the Steelers acquiring Chris Wormley via trade, Buggs’ future becomes somewhat unclear. Unless McCullers becomes a casualty down the road, it’s not certain if Buggs will even make the 53-man roster in 2020, though he would be a prime candidate for the practice squad. Even if he does make the team, he will have a hard time dressing and playing, barring injuries.