Isaiah Buggs, you’re next man up. With Tyson Alualu dealing with a week-to-week MCL injury that’s possibly if not probably going to keep him out of Sunday’s game against Dallas, Buggs is slated to get his first NFL start. In his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin was asked to evaluate Buggs’ play and growth in his two seasons with the Steelers.
“I think first and foremost, he’s continually gaining an understanding what professional conditioning is about,” he told reporters. “I don’t know that he understood that a year ago. That’s often the case for young people. He’s really improved in that area moving into a second year. And I really think that’s provided the springboard for an improvement in play. It’s reasonable to expect him to continually get better with more snap exposure. I know he did on Sunday in that game. And so we’re excited about him getting additional opportunities moving forward, and we expect him to continually get better.”
That’s not the first time a coach has talked about Buggs and his weight/conditioning. Keith Butler has mentioned getting Buggs’ weight down several times since the team drafted him in the 6th round of the 2019 draft.
“Isaiah is trying to lose weight, keep his mobility [up,” he said back in September.
In the offseason, Buggs admitted weight and conditioning were his goals in year two.
“Maintaining weight,” he said in March, right before the pandemic began.. “Staying in shape. Don’t come back out of shape. Stressing the fact to leave here how you are now, and come back how you are now. You don’t want to be out of shape coming back.”
He revealed he lost 15 pounds during his rookie season, going from around 305 to 290.
Buggs had a strong second half in relief of Alualu against the Ravens. He made a critical tackle on Lamar Jackson on a 4th and 3 draw, getting vision on the ball and shedding center Matt Skura’s block to stop him short of the first down marker.
Isaiah Buggs had a rough first half but had some big wins against center Matt Skura. None bigger than his 4th down tackle of Lamar Jackson. Basically two-gaps it like a RB. Vision on the ball, stack, shed, make the play. Needs to build off this w/ Alualu injury. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/wlrGOKKonV
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 2, 2020
Still, Buggs and company got ran all over on by the Ravens, allowing the most rushing yards in a game since 1993. Pittsburgh will face another tough running back this weekend in Dallas’ Zeke Elliott. But given the injuries to QB Dak Prescott and large chunks of their offensive line, the run game has struggled. They’ve averaging just four yards per carry, a bottom third mark in football. The Steelers could be without Alualu and Heyward though so the playing field may be leveled.