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: The third-year defensive lineman will now be called upon to play a central role, or at least a significantly increased role, in the Steelers’ defense following the potentially season-ending fractured ankle suffered by starting nose tackle Tyson Alualu.
Isaiah Buggs, a 2019 sixth-round pick out of Alabama, spent much of the second half of last season as a healthy scratch—he also missed some time while on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, as well. But after beginning the season as the backup nose tackle to Tyson Alualu, one way or another, he was demoted in favor of then-rookie Carlos Davis.
Davis missed the Steelers’ last game due to an injury, so did not have an opportunity to receive work on Sunday after the team lost Alualu indefinitely. The veteran suffered a broken ankle, and it is possible that he will miss the rest of the season.
Buggs dressed, though, logging 22 snaps, and playing generally favorably, even if he finished the game without recording any official statistics. It is unknown whether or not Davis will have to miss more than the one game he has already missed, but his absence last week forced Cameron Heyward into some nose tackle snaps.
It should be noted that Davis out-snapped Buggs during the season opener, though that could potentially have been due to the opponent and playing almost the entire game in nickel and dime defenses.
Davis is listed as an end on the depth chart on the team’s website, behind Chris Wormley (until Stephon Tuitt gets back), while Buggs is listed as the backup nose tackle behind Alualu. Is that the way that it’s actually going to play out—that Buggs will take the majority of the nose tackle snaps?
The coaching staff doesn’t necessarily have to have the answer to that right now. They can figure it out as they go along, riding the hot hand. But Davis has to get back on the field first before it’s a discussion. Henry Mondeaux, called up from the practice squad to take Alualu’s roster spot after being moved to the Reesrve/Injured List, may also see time at nose.