The Pittsburgh Steelers lost starting defensive tackle Tyson Alualu to a fractured ankle on Sunday and they have since placed the veteran on the team’s Reserve/Injured list. This means that Alualu, who has since had surgery to repair his injured ankle, will be sidelined for a very extended amount of time and quite possibly the remainder of the season. On Tuesday, the Steelers released an updated depth chart ahead of their Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and it shows Isaiah Buggs as the team’s new starting nose tackle. It also shows defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux, who was signed off the practice squad on Monday, as Buggs’ backup.
On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the current status of second-year defensive lineman Carlos Davis, who missed the team’s Week 2 game against the Las Vegas Raiders with a knee injury. As part of his response, Tomlin talked about Buggs.
“He is a guy that has a chance to have an expanded role,” Tomlin said of Davis on Tuesday. “Isaiah Buggs is a guy that has a chance to have an expanded role. But we’ve called on those guys in an expanded capacity in the past. I think Buggs had a couple of significant games for us at Baltimore late in the year last year where he had an expanded role, and we expect him to deliver. And we expect Carlos to deliver if called upon in an increased fashion.”
On the surface, it certainly looks and sounds like Buggs will be the player to get the start at nose tackle on Sunday against the Bengals and that’s even if Davis is deemed healthy enough to play in that contest. The Steelers usually dress just five total defensive linemen for games, so if that’s the number again this Sunday against the Bengals, it will be interesting to see which player winds up being the odd man out between Davis, Mondeaux and rookie defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk.
As for Buggs, specifically, he was inactive for six regular season games last season and for five of the team’s last seven contests. He was inactive for the Steelers lone playoff game as well. He played all of 131 defensive snaps in his second NFL season and finished 2021 with just 11 total tackles and a quarterback hit. As the 2020 season progressed, Buggs seemed to fall out of favor and behind then-rookie Davis on the team’s depth chart.
This past Sunday against the Raiders, Buggs allegedly missed a few snaps in that contest due to an unspecified injury and that resulted in Cameron Heyward needing to play some snaps at nose tackle in the process. Buggs did log 22 total snaps against the Raiders but failed to register any stats.