The Pittsburgh Steelers felt that they needed to reinforce their defensive line this offseason with some young, pedigreed talent, and they managed to address that concern via the draft with the third-round selection of DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M.
Leal played a lot on the end for the Aggies, and the team has him listed at 290 pounds (according to Nick Farabaugh, he said that he’s currently around 300 pounds). Following the draft, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said that he believed the school kept his weight down for their own purposes, but that he believes the rookie has the frame to add weight and muscle without hindering his athleticism.
To that end, Leal confirmed during rookie minicamp earlier today that the priority at the moment is to get him worked up on the inside. He spoke to reporters after practice that he feels very comfortable working along the interior, and that it’s not necessarily new to him, but it does come with a learning curve.
“That’s something I’ve always done, but now it’s the main focus, is inside. Outside’s gonna take care of itself, so inside is the main focus”, he said, via Noah Strackbein of AllSteelers, the Steelers hub for Sports Illustrated.
In a way, he is making a similar transition to that of Kendrick Green last year, who moved primarily guard to center. Though both have had some experience doing it, they were each more familiar playing a bit more on the outside, and have had to get used to how fast things move closer to the ball.
“It’s just a lot quicker”, Leal said, reminiscent of Green’s comments a year ago. “Everything is at a quicker pace, and you’ve got offensive linemen, guards and centers, that are small, short, wide as well, so just being able to make quick adjustments and just quick moves as well”.
Of course, for Leal, he won’t just be stationary in one place. The Steelers have consistently talked about him playing up and down the line. The focus right now is getting him coached up along the inside because that is where he needs more work to adjust at the NFL level. As he said, the outside will take care of itself.
The rookie comes in behind Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and presumably Stephon Tuitt in the starting lineup. The Steelers also return their top two reserves, Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams, from last season (in actuality, both were starting for the absent Tuitt and Alualu, respectively).
Assuming a full house, it may not be immediately clear that Leal will be on the field from the get-go, unless the Steelers decide to dress six defensive linemen. If he can play on special teams, that would help that issue. The fact that they anticipate him playing all positions doesn’t hurt his cause, either.