Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL Isaiah Buggs
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Initially anticipated by many to end up the odd man out, third-year veteran Isaiah Buggs put together an impressive offseason that resulted in, at least for now, his retaining his roster spot.
Even though Joshua Frazier had not worked out the year before, there was some optimism—as much as there can be for a sixth-round pick—surrounding Isaiah Buggs when the Steelers drafted him in 2019. He played for Karl Dunbar in college, for one thing. For another, his profile suggested he could offer a little more as a pass rusher than their depth defensive linemen had in the past.
Through limited playing time, he did flash as a rookie, but he lost his positioning in 2020 to then-rookie Carlos Davis, which in part resulted in his being a healthy scratch for much of the second half of the year. After Pittsburgh returned all seven linemen from last year’s roster and then added Isaiahh Loudermilk in the draft on top of that, it was seen as almost a sure thing that Buggs would be the odd man out.
But the Steelers actually kept eight defensive linemen on the initial 53-man roster, a decision many have questioned in hindsight largely because it indirectly contributed to their losing Quincy Roche through waivers. That group is now down to six after Stephon Tuitt was placed on the Reserve/Injured List and Henry Mondeaux was sent down to the practice squad.
Buggs is listed as the number two nose tackle behind Tyson Alualu, which is where he has played all offseason. My expectation is that he, and the rest of the linemen, will remain safe even after Tuitt returns, in part because of Davis’ ability to contribute on special teams.
There’s no question that Buggs played well enough to earn his roster spot. He should dress and contribute, as well, to the defensive line rotation, especially while Tuitt is out. What he does with it is up to him, but if the preseason is an indication, then I think their depth is in pretty good hands.