If the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to challenge third-year defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, then they should consider their mission accomplished. After seemingly failing to make the ‘second-year jump’ in 2020, the former Alabama lineman has had an impressive summer, both in training camp and during the season.
Whether related or not, this comes following the team’s re-signing of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, and drafting Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth round, thereby retaining all seven linemen, including Buggs, who ended the 2020 season on the 53-man roster, while adding yet another to the mix.
The vast majority of accounts have had him as the odd man out, but with the caveat that it would certainly be a shame. But both he and Carlos Davis have been impressive, and Davis has been running on special teams, while others like Chris Wormley appear likely to stick as well, suggesting that they may have to carry seven linemen to avoid cutting him. His showing flexibility in playing both end and tackle will help his cause.
“Most definitely. We’ve got to learn how to play all around up front, and I’m doing a great job of moving all across the line and trying to show my skills”, he said following Friday night’s game, during which he played the majority of his snaps at nose tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, 32 of his 45 snaps this preseason have come at nose tackle.
“Yes, I’ve done much of it before, but my job now is to kind of learn the whole defense up front and be able to play those positions”, Buggs told reporters about the work that he has gotten at nose tackle. Buggs did not play much in base during his rookie season.
He did play about half of his snaps at nose tackle last year after Javon Hargrave left in free agency and the Steelers moved Alualu inside. Buggs opened the season as the number two nose tackle, but he was later passed on the depth chart by the then-rookie Davis.
The competition along the defensive line has been fierce, and both Buggs and Davis have certainly displayed roster worthiness. It would be a shame if either has to be cut, but a defensive lineman playing on special teams makes the Steelers much more likely to carry a seventh. Henry Mondeaux was that guy last year, but it seems they’re trying to make Davis that guy this year.