‘Breakout’ Season Prompts Lions to Re-Sign Former Steelers 6th-Round Pick

Isaiah Buggs

Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images Isaiah Buggs of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on August 29, 2019.

On Monday the Detroit Lions announced that they have re-signed former Pittsburgh Steelers 6th-round pick Isaiah Buggs, who was a pending unrestricted free agent. Contract terms have not been disclosed by the team, but according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, it’s a two-year deal worth “up to $6 million.”

The new contract is hardly a surprise, especially when one considers that Buggs took his game to new heights in 2022, starting 13 of the 17 games in which he appeared for Detroit. In fact, he reached career highs in total tackles (46) and quarterback hits (10), while also contributing a sack and a forced fumble.

“Buggs was one of the most important late-offseason additions for the Lions last year,” explains Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit, noting that the Alabama product played 755 snaps in 2022, emerging as a defensive leader in the locker room in the midst of his “breakout” year.

“He was one of a few players who were credited with setting up the players-owner meeting that seemed to help turn around the team’s defensive performance,” adds Reisman, and by the end of last season was seen as a vocal leader, offering up motivational speeches on game day.

Isaiah Buggs’ Steelers Career Came to a ‘Weird End’

Isaiah Buggs joined the Lions in July 2022, at a time when his NFL career was clearly at a crossroads. Six months earlier, his time in Pittsburgh came to a “weird end,” when he was waived just prior to the 2021 season-finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

Never mind that he had been deemed good enough to step into a starting role after nose tackle Tyson Alulu suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 of 2021. He seemed to fall out of favor with the coaching staff in the ensuing months, first missing time with an ankle injury and then spending 10 days on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Buggs’ Time in Pittsburgh Revisited

All told, the 26-year-old Buggs played in 29 games for the Steelers between 2019-21, making seven starts and recording 31 tackles (14 solo), with two tackles for loss, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed, as per Pro Football Reference. Pittsburgh drafted him in the 6th round in 2019 (No. 192 overall), after a college journey that took him from Gulf Coast Community College to the University of Alabama.

Arguably the most memorable moment during his Steelers career was his sideline spat with teammate Carlos Davis, which occurred in the midst of a Jan. 2021 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Despite the abrupt end to his time in Pittsburgh, Buggs didn’t seem to harbor any ill will towards the city or the team that drafted him. He posted a heartfelt goodbye to the Steelers on Instagram after signing to the practice squad of the Las Vegas Raiders on Jan. 11, 2022.

After the Raiders declined to offer him a new contract for 2022 he had an unsuccessful minicamp tryout with the Atlanta Falcons in June before catching on with the Lions at the start of training camp. The Lions paid him a salary of $965,000 in 2022, so his new deal represents a significant raise.