The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be one of the most predictable teams in the draft if you know where to look, no matter how many people want to insist on this or that being an elaborate smoke screen. Often enough, even the players involved have a pretty good idea of Pittsburgh being an option if they’re interested in him.
That was no different for the Steelers’ first defensive player of the 2022 NFL Draft class, lineman DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar was in attendance at his Pro Day, and Leak confirmed that he had a “great conversation” with his new position coach.
Marvin didn’t beat around the bush when asked if he thought the Steelers had interest in him. “Yes, I did”, he told reporters, via transcript provided by the team’s media department, talking about the conversation he had with Dunbar. “We hit it off, talked good ball, and talked to my family, and I could tell they were interested as well”, he said. “Talking to all the coaches at the Combine, a day full of meetings. I’m genuinely excited to be a part of this organization”.
Leal’s selection marks the fifth consecutive draft in which the Steelers have taken a defensive lineman, joining Isaiahh Loudermilk in 2021, Carlos Davis in 2020, Isaiah Buggs in 2019, and Joshua Frazier in 2018. The latter two are already gone. Davis is certainly on the outside looking in, currently, and Loudermilk will have to earn his roster spot this year.
While he weighed 285 pounds at his Pro Day, and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin acknowledged that he would probably be looked at as a base 3-4 end right now, he didn’t harp too much on positions, instead emphasizing their belief in his versatility, as well as in his ability to add bulk to his frame if he were asked to play nose in a base front.
The Steelers would presumably try to get him on the field, maybe even dressing six defensive linemen to do so, but right now, assuming the return of Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams would perhaps still be projected as the top two reserves.
Given that almost everybody spends two thirds of their snaps or more in nickel or dime fronts anyway, however, the base distinction is hardly relevant these days. Lael would be an immediate nickel asset to spell Heyward and Tuitt without adding any weight.
And the Steelers certainly have their types when it comes to bringing in players. Leal obviously fits that bill, and they weren’t hiding it. Like George Pickens, who had Steelers wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson running him through drills at his Pro Day, Dunbar was all over his new lineman months before they learned they would be working together.