Tyson Alualu’s misfortune is Isaiah Buggs’ opportunity. Buggs went from being a player battling for his roster spot at the start of training camp. Just three weeks into the season, he’s now the team’s new starting nose tackle. He’ll need to uphold the lofty standard Alualu set, but teammate Chris Wormley has confidence Buggs can get the job done.
Wormley spoke with reporters on a Zoom call Monday to talk about what he’s seen from Buggs this season.
“I think he just understands his role a little more,” Wormley said via Steelers.com. “I think he understands the defense in general. When he’s in there, he can disrupt some things in the middle, especially at that nose position. Clog up holes. Push the linemen back to make the running backs bounce in run situations.”
Buggs, a third-year player, has always flashed talent but struggled to stack consistency. Whether it was issues about his weight or being assignment sound, he needed to find a steadier level of play. But he impressed this summer, having a great battle with Carlos Davis, and both men ended up deservedly making the roster. Here’s how we summed up Buggs’ summer in our post-camp recap.
“Buggs ran second-team nose tackle the entire camp and did well. Mike Tomlin offered valuable insight into his play, noting he liked Buggs better against the run but that he needed to improve as a pass rusher. It’s hard to gauge how much better he got in the pass game because he saw so many reps at nose tackle and not as many as a sub-package DT. Just seven pass rushing snaps as a DT this preseason. Compare that to Carlos Davis, who has 43 entering Friday’s finale against Carolina.
Buggs play showed he was stout at the point, got off blocks, and got into the opposing backfield. It felt like he was more consistent than year’s past too. His play has warranted a spot on the 53 but this team will have tough decisions to make there.”
But with multiple injuries to starters, the depth along this D-line is quickly being tested. For Buggs, it starts with sound run defense in the middle, especially against a Bengals’ team with a strong desire to run the football, where his game needs to go is becoming a more impactful pass rusher, something Mike Tomlin noted last month. But Wormley noted he’s seen improvement there, too.
“He’s gotten better in the pass as well. So I’m excited for all these young guys, and myself included, to take that next step to fill in for Tyson and Tuitt.”
Carlos Davis, assuming he can get back healthy, should assume a bigger role as a sub-package pass rusher while Buggs is the base nose tackle. But with injuries mounting, players will have to rotate and wear multiple hats. Time for these young guys to grow up fast.