Of all the positions which might be viewed as thin on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 roster, most don’t think about the defensive line. With Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave there to anchor the 3-4 base defensive front, it is easy to forget about the men who are called in to spell them when necessary.
This offseason the Steelers re-signed Tyson Alualu to provide veteran depth at the position and re-signed Daniel McCullers to help solidify the nose tackle position, but that was it.
Until the 2019 NFL Draft.
After letting L.T. Walton try his hand at free agency, the Steelers filled his spot with a sixth round pick from Alabama named Isaiah Buggs. Or as he is called, “Big Pooh”.
Buggs joins the team in a position of need, and is hoping to ensure he doesn’t have the same fate as another late round Alabama defensive tackle from the 2018 draft, Joshua Frazier, who failed to make the team and is now retired from football after the AAF folded.
Frazier was a 7th round pick, and Buggs a 6th round pick, but what is it about Buggs that separates him not only from Frazier, but other picks in the draft? It all starts with his college experience at Alabama.
“Just a great coach, a great program,” he said. “Coach [Nick] Saban, you have to buy into his system, do what he tells you to do and you’ll be successful.”
With the high number of players leaving Alabama and joining the NFL ranks, the players who play for the Crimson Tide don’t think about the next level.
“Out of 100 percent of them, probably 99 percent of them are in the league,” Buggs told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Just from Coach Saban, doing what you’re supposed to do and buying in. It’ll get you where you need to be.
“When you get there you don’t think about the NFL. You think about getting better, working each day and the NFL will find you.”
Despite his pedigree, Buggs saw the draft as a frustration thinking his name would be called earlier than when it was on Day 3 of the process.
“I expected to be called earlier on draft day but things happen for a reason,” he offered during the Steelers’ rookie minicamp. And maybe that reason was to come to Pittsburgh and be a player who provides quality depth at a position of need.
In 2018, Buggs registered 52 total tackles, 13.5 for a loss, and a whopping 9.5 sacks. Throw in 3 pass defenses, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles and it is safe to say Buggs had himself a tremendous Senior season for the Crimson Tide.
Throughout his successful senior season, and frustrating draft process, Buggs knows his future will depend on one thing — getting better. “From here on out I just have to continue get better.”
If he can continue to improve, the Steelers’ defensive front will benefit greatly from another player who can get after the quarterback and stop the run while Heyward, Tuitt and Hargrave need a rest.