Some players don’t know where they’ll go on draft day. Some players don’t care. They just want to get the process over with and it doesn’t matter the team they end up with.
Third round pick DeMarvin Leal had answers to both questions: where he’d go and where he wanted to go. The team who fit both those answers was ultimately the team who called his phone Friday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sitting down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Leal said Pittsburgh is where he wanted to call home.
“I wanted to come here,” he told Matthews. “So it was a no-brainer when I got that call from Pittsburgh. I was more waiting on it. So it was just all God’s timing as well. So just was blessed when I first got it.”
Leal had to wait a bit longer than maybe he hoped. Viewed as a potential first-round pick last year and possible second-round option throughout the pre-draft process, he dropped into the third round. But he fell into the Steelers’ lap and Leal’s relationship with D-line coach Karl Dunbar was highly attractive.
“Coach Dunbar,” Leal said when asked why he wanted to come to Pittsburgh. “He’s a fantastic coach and he has ties with my defense line coach at A&M as well. When we first met, it just automatically clicked.”
Leal didn’t expand on what ties Dunbar had with his coach and I couldn’t find a solid connection. But DEs coach Terry Price is a longtime SEC defensive line coach and perhaps crossed paths with Dunbar during his college coaching days in the early 2000s.
As we noted in our Pro Day tracker and lead-up to the NFL Draft, A&M was the only place we spotted Dunbar at this year, checking out Leal and teammate Jayden Peevy. Leal confirmed to Matthews he had a post Pro Day dinner with Dunbar.
“We hopped on a few phone calls. And then we also had dinner after Pro Day and that went for a good two hours. Just me and him just talking about ball and each other. Personal life things that we like to do.”
Dunbar has proven to be a quality coach in the league and has admirably filled John Mitchell’s shoes. Dunbar works closest with the d-line and EDGE rushers, though with Brian Flores in the mix, perhaps Dunbar is able to exclusively focus on working with the defensive linemen this year, which would help out a younger and rawer player like Leal.
Leal is coming to the NFL as a bit of a tweener, a mix between a rush end and interior tackle. Pittsburgh plans to begin him as a defensive end which means Leal will need to add roughly 10-15 pounds to his frame, a number the team said he can comfortably achieve. If Leal gets bigger and stronger with his pass rush tools, the Steelers may have another rotational piece along their front. Pittsburgh needs a much-improved performance from their d-line in 2022 after suffering through a historically bad run defense in 2021, allowing 5.0 YPC and 2483 yards, both worst marks in the league.