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2020 South Side Questions: Can Isaiah Buggs Pick Up Slack In Run D With Alulau Sidelined?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Can Isaiah Buggs pick up the slack in run defense while Tyson Alualu is sidelined?

It’s fair to say that Isaiah Buggs, the second-year defensive lineman, had his ups and downs on Sunday in the most extensive playing time of his career. A week after being inactive for the first time since the first half of his rookie season, he dressed and was called upon to play a significant number of snaps after starting nose tackle Tyson Alualu was injured on the first play of the game.

While he was able to make a couple of impactful plays late in the game, particularly with his pass rush, there is reason to question whether or not he will hold up in run defense, and the Steelers are about to face Ezekiel Elliott, even if he admittedly hasn’t been lighting it up this season. He is projected to rush for over 1000 yards with 10 rushing touchdowns, however, on the season.

Alualu has been arguably the team’s best run defender on the entire roster, and the Steelers struggled to adjust without him on the fly against the Baltimore Ravens, who rushed for over 250 yards but still came up short in the end.

On paper, the Steelers have an easy schedule for the next few weeks before they have to face the Ravens again, and they want to ensure that they lock in these wins when they can, but it may take quality play from players like Buggs and Robert Spillane to help ensure that they don’t get upset.

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