If there’s a battle of two dogs, one bone, it’s Carlos Davis versus Isaiah Buggs. Those two may be fighting for the sixth and final spot along the defensive line. And before the Philadelphia Eagles game Thursday night, head coach Mike Tomlin had some interesting comments about that battle.
I couldn’t get to posting this before the game and I know the focus is what happened in Week 2. But his conversation with Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola provided important insight. Here’s what Tomlin said about the two.
“I’ll say this about both guys,” Tomlin said. “They both have had good consistent camps in the areas where they distinguish themselves. Isaiah Buggs being a strong run defender. He’s shown that consistently in run drill-like circumstances. And Carlos Davis is a young, dynamic interior rusher, and he has shown those skills in drills that highlight that aspect of play.”
Their pecking order is in line with Tomlin’s evaluation. Buggs has spent all camp as the second-team nose tackle and got the nod there in Thursday’s game against the Eagles. Carlos Davis has gotten most of his time as a nickel defensive tackle where his explosiveness and pass rush ability is better suited. Both players carry similar amounts of versatility, able to play up and down the line. In base defense in the second half Thursday night, Davis logged a handful of snaps at defensive end.
To Tomlin, the deciding factor may be which player makes the biggest strides in improving their largest weakness.
“Probably the difference between them are the areas where they do not excel, or they don’t have an area of expertise. Like how well does Isaiah Buggs rush the passer, and how well does Carlos Davis stop the run. Those are the things that ultimately could determine roles that could potentially develop for those guys.”
It’s hard to say who has had the upper hand. In my latest roster projection, I kept Davis over Buggs and I don’t think enough changed Thursday night for me to rethink that decision. Davis is also showing extra special teams value, running down kicks and serving on the punt block team versus the Eagles.
Still, the entire defensive line battle will go wire-to-wire, though rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk has created some separation for himself with strong performances in his first two games. If Loudermilk’s spot is spoken for, that presumably leaves just one more on the 53. The Steelers almost always keep six, which would leave one spot for Buggs, Davis, and Henry Mondeaux, though Mondeaux is falling behind in the race.
There’s two more games to fight for that spot. Expect both men to do so. Just hopefully not literally.