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: DE Isaiah Buggs
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With Mike Tomlin implying that Tyson Alualu could feature prominently at nose tackle this season, that leaves the door open for Isaiah Buggs to at least have a roster spot and possibly even a defensive role despite the acquisition of Chris Wormley.
The Steelers trading for Chris Wormley was bad for Isaiah Buggs; I don’t think there is any other way to say that. Wormley immediately passes him on the depth chart, and with the indications of Tyson Alualu moving at least part-time to nose tackle, perhaps he even emerges as the number three defensive end behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
One might even say that the Steelers being open about their plans for pushing Alualu inside are a vote of confidence in Buggs as he enters his second season, having spent most of his rookie year playing just a minor role on defense. He was even a healthy scratch until Tuitt was injured.
Still, there’s a very good chance he remains a healthy scratch this year. A projected gameday active list for the defensive line would look like this: Cameron Heyward; Stephon Tuitt; Tyson Alualu; Daniel McCullers; Chris Wormley.
There is the chance, with the NFL now allowing an additional player to dress for games, that that extra spot (the one that is not reserved for dressing an eighth offensive lineman) would be used to dress a sixth defensive lineman, which would make some sense.
Failing that, and failing Buggs playing some nose tackle himself, it’s still hard to picture him getting a helmet this year while everybody is healthy, because you still need to dress at least two players who can play nose tackle—in this case, McCullers and Alualu. Wormley is the top reserve end, so that’s your five right there.
But Alualu functioning inside helps Buggs just make the 53-man roster as well, and that is not insignificant. Not that there are a ton of alternatives, but they did draft Carlos Davis, who figures to be more of an interior player even though the coaching staff advised him to learn all three line spots.