If there’s any one player who sums up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, and maybe their whole team, it’s nose tackle Isaiah Buggs. One play, everything comes together and looks good. The next, it falls apart. Buggs is a talented interior linemen, but his inconsistency has always been the most troubling part of his game. Speaking with reporters Thursday, Cam Heyward said becoming the same talented player down-to-down is the key for Buggs.
“I think for Buggs, some of it comes to just experience,” he told reporters on a Zoom call today. “He came from a great program in Alabama and I think the thing for him, he’s gotta continue to just be consistent. He can’t just be one great play and then you fall off from there.”
Buggs has flashed as an interior plugger since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 Draft, reuniting with his college coach Karl Dunbar. But his up-and-down play from an assignment and technique standpoint, along with weight concerns earlier in his career, have made him a tough guy to rely upon. But with so many injuries along the defensive line, losing Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, and Carlos Davis, Buggs has been pressed into a significant role. His 199 snaps this season nearly surpass the 206 he played his first two years in the league.
Heyward described how Buggs can improve his technique and ultimately, his consistency.
“Continue to use your hands. A lot of times guys want to, play quick and try to reach them, But he’s gotta be strong and he’s got to get his hands on him and he’s gotta push people back.”
Buggs flashed even against the Lions, a game in which the defense allowed 229 yards on the ground. We pointed out one play of him splitting a double-team, noting it’s plays like those that leave you wanting to see more. And make his lowlights all the more frustrating.
Filling the shoes of Tyson Alualu is no small task, but Heyward understands Buggs’ role is critical to the rest of this defense.
“We need them to be stout in that inside role because, um, if you don’t have a good nose tackle in there, you’re going to get beat.”
Buggs and the Steelers will face an underrated Chargers’ run game Sunday night. Led by Austin Ekeler, tied for 11th in the league averaging 4.7 yards per carry. They’ll face a mobile enough quarterback, too, in Justin Herbert, capable of running read option plays that Pittsburgh has struggled to defend against. Look for a full report on the Chargers’ offense tomorrow morning on Steelers Depot.