While there are some exceptions to the rule in any given year, there are certain qualities that have come to define a typical Pittsburgh Steelers draft under head coach Mike Tomlin. One of them is a mid-round wide receiver. Another very common occurrence is a late-round defensive lineman. Usually, those guys come and go, but the team has had better luck having them stick in recent years.
Beginning with the selection of Isaiah Buggs in the sixth round in 2019, the Steelers have now drafted a defensive lineman within the final three rounds of the draft in three consecutive years who have all made the team. Last year, it was Carlos Davis in the seventh round, and this year, Isaiahh Loudermilk in round five, the earliest they’ve drafted lineman since Javon Hargrave in the third round in 2016.
All three of them are on the 53-man roster, behind Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley, while Stephon Tuitt is on the Reserve/Injured List; my guess is that all three will continue to stick once Tuitt gets back, if for one simple reason: “they’re hard to come by sometimes”, as defensive coordinator Keith Butler said.
Specifically, it can be hard for the Steelers to find the type of defensive lineman that they like to employ, one who fits the prototypical five-tech, 3-4 end mold—even if the majority of their snaps will be taken along the interior in the nickel. But when they find body types they like late in the draft, they take their chances.
“We’ve got three good young linemen”, Butler said last week back on Wednesday. “Having those guys is gonna help us, I think. We drafted a couple of them and they’re coming along for us. We think they’re gonna be pretty good down the line”.
Both Buggs and Davis were on the team last year, but were pitted against one another to serve as the gameday active backup to Alualu at nose tackle. To be frank, I’m really not sure which of them is going to begin as the number two nose tackle this year, but Buggs is listed ahead of Davis on the depth chart.
Both will be active at least for the first three games as the top reserves behind Heyward, Alualu, and Wormley, who is in line to start while Tuitt is out of the lineup. Both are capable of playing inside and outside.
The fact of Davis’ having a role on special teams coverage units likely means that both he and Buggs will continue to dress for games even after Tuitt returns. Last year, after the Steelers promoted Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad, they had seven defensive linemen and dressed six. The numbers should work out the same this year once the group is healthy.