Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: DL Isaiah Buggs
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After an apparent injury scare in the earlier portions of the week that say him go from limited participant to non-participant, second-year defender Isaiah Buggs practiced fully on Friday and has no injury designation ahead of Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Isaiah Buggs played a career-high 34 snaps for the Steelers on Sunday in their win against the Baltimore Ravens. It didn’t go as well as one could have hoped, but it also wasn’t planned. His playing time, and specifically the volume, was due to Tyson Alualu suffering a knee injury early in the game.
He finished the contest with a career-high five tackles, including four defensive stops. He recorded two tackles on Lamar Jackson on third and fourth down on Baltimore’s penultimate drive inside the red zone. Earlier in the second half, he registered a hit that led to a Stephon Tuit sack.
With Alualu ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, Buggs presumably is in line to make the first ‘start’ of his career—assuming that the Steelers play their first snap in a three-man front. Considering the fact that Dallas is playing eenie meenie miney mo to decide who their starting quarterback is going to be, however, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that they will see a lot of run-heavy formations, and thus counter with a lot of ‘base’ defense.
This will be the biggest opportunity yet in Buggs’ career, and perhaps even a possible audition to take over the nose tackle role in 2021 if the Steelers are unable to retain Alualu, who is 33 and will be a free agent in 2021, beyond this season.
While Ezekiel Elliott is a former All-Pro runner, the glory days of Dallas’ running game is already over. That’s not to say he can’t run over the Steelers if they leave gaps open for the taking as they did against the Ravens.
And that’s on Buggs as much as it is anybody. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler told reporters on Wednesday that he was missing holes early in the game, and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar had to work with him during the game to clean it up.