This was a rough game in so many ways, and even in spite of the victory, it’s still hard to feel too good about how the game went. The Pittsburgh Steelers eked out yet another narrow victory, but more concerning are the injuries that they sustained in the game.
Both Tyson Alualu and then later Cameron Heyward, two of the team’s three starting defensive linemen, went down with injuries and did not return. Details are still unavailable for the nature of either injury at this time, but Heyward’s appeared to be concerning.
The injury to Alualu, however, happened early in the game, and it left the Steelers to adjust to the best rushing offense in the league, who were playing at home and coming off of a bye week, without their starting nose tackle and arguably best run defender.
In his place was Isaiah Buggs, a second-year former sixth-round pick who had played sparingly so far this year, and in fact, was even demoted to inactive status last week, with Henry Mondeaux dressing as the fifth lineman. With Chris Wormley having been moved to injured reserve, both dressed for this game, however.
And things were not pretty for Buggs early, who lost a number of early battles in the run game, which helped lead to the Ravens putting up nearly 180 yards on the ground in the first half alone and mounting a 17-7 lead heading into the half.
Buggs, like the rest of the team, however, was able to adjust in the second half, and he made multiple plays, including a key sack of Lamar Jackson. He also pressured Jackson into a second-down incompletion that resulted in the Ravens eventually punting.
“He needed to”, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game about Buggs stepping up in the second half. “When he first came in there, he wasn’t, and I’m just being honest. We didn’t have anywhere else to go. It wasn’t like we were going to put somebody else in there. He had to knuckle down and get active, and he did”.
Buggs finished the game with five tackles in all and a quarterback hit, including on the 4th-and-3 stop against Jackson as the Steelers’ six-yard line that was such a crucial moment in the outcome of the game. He also stopped Jackson on 3rd and 5 for a two-yard gain on the previous play when he scrambled.
Given the injuries this group has sustained, it’s likely that the young man’s role in this defense is going to become significantly more important as we approach the second half of this season, even if temporarily. He did not have a good first half, but he has flashed some potential, and the Steelers may well need him to turn that potential into more production moving forward.