Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: Down
I can’t even tell you the last time the Steelers retained seven defensive linemen on the 53-man roster during their 3-4 era, at least for an extended period of time. If rookie Carlos Davis comes in and earns a spot on the 53-man roster, then second-year Isaiah Buggs would be the biggest player at risk of losing his spot.
A sixth-round pick last year, Buggs did make the 53-man roster, but he was earmarked for a redshirt season until Stephon Tuitt suffered an injury that proved severe enough to put him on the shelf the rest of the year back in week six.
From that point on, he logged a handful of snaps here and there, and he did show progress as the year went on, even if it was difficult for him to find the stat sheet. Since then, however, they also acquired Chris Wormley via trade.
That’s two new linemen with one—Javon Hargrave—leaving. Unless the Steelers carry seven, it’s up to Buggs to unseat somebody. Wormley isn’t going anywhere after they gave up a fifth-round pick for him. Tyson Alualu has been mentioned multiple times as a nose tackle candidate by both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.
Then there’s Davis. It really comes down to these two young players to determine the sixth spot on the roster—and whether or not that will be the final. Both of them potentially can play both inside and outside, with Davis telling reporters that he was told to learn all three positions, but we haven’t as of yet heard Buggs’ name mentioned in the nose tackle conversation.
That’s bad news for him unless Alualu makes a full-time move to tackle and leaves Wormley and Buggs to be the defensive ends, because they don’t need three reserve ends. Especially not these days when they may only see a few hundred snaps in their 3-4 front.
If he should fail to make the team, of course, it’s a virtual guarantee that the Steelers will try to retain him on the practice squad, with the chance that he could be elevated again. There’s a good chance 2020 is Alualu’s final season, at least in Pittsburgh, while Wormley is only under contract this year, so even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, that’s far from the end of his journey.