Half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line is very experienced. The other half is very inexperienced. You have three players who are in their seventh year or later in Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu, who have been starters for most of their career, and then you have three players who are in, at best, their second year, with fewer than 250 combined career snaps between the three of them.
(and then there’s Chris Wormley somewhere in the middle, on injured reserve)
You would think that there might be a divide of some sort between the veterans and the novices, especially with Alualu even having been here for four years now and logging nearing 1500 snaps for Pittsburgh since 2017. Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and Carlos Davis? What have they done?
That’s not how it is in the Steelers’ defensive line room, according to Mondeaux, who first came to the team as a futures signing in 2019 and spent that entire season on the practice squad. He was on the practice squad this year as well before being called up a few weeks ago.
“I think the older guys do a great job of teaching us younger guys that aren’t in the same position as they are, and I don’t think it’s a bond between us”, he said, when asked if the three younger players are closer. “I think it’s a bond between the whole group. And that’s why those older guys have been playing as long as they have. They do the right things. They work hard every day. They don’t make excuses”.
“And it rubs off on the younger guys, and they include us, and they understand that they have to teach us”, Mondeaux continued. “It’s not like other environments that I’ve been in where the older guys kind of do their own thing, they don’t want to compete with the younger guys, they stay to themselves. It’s really a bond. It’s a group. They’re great leaders, great teachers, and I think that’s paramount to their success that they’ve had”.
With Alualu out for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, and Wormley on injured reserve, guys like Buggs, Mondeaux, and even Davis, making his NFL debut after being a healthy scratch for the first seven games, had to pick up the slack.
Buggs logged 28 snaps, Davis 16, and Mondeaux 15. The former recorded three tackles in the game, while Davis had two, and Mondeaux one, plus a quarterback hit. Both Davis and Mondeaux registered tackles for loss.
Buggs was a sixth-round pick last year. Davis? A rookie taken in the seventh round. Mondeaux originally went undrafted out of Oregon, signing first with the New Orleans Saints in 2018, when spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs before joining Pittsburgh.
They’re all here now, gathered together and contributing positively to an undefeated team halfway through the season. And they have savvy veterans directing them through their journey and bringing them into the fold.