When Pittsburgh drafted DL DeMarvin Leal in the third round of this year’s draft, one thing was immediately obvious. If he was going to play along the d-line, Leal, who weighed in around 285 pounds at his Pro Day, was going to need to add weight. Leal’s reportedly already begun to do so but according to Mike Tomlin, it isn’t something the team has formally asked him to do.
Speaking with reporters Saturday via the team’s YouTube channel, Tomlin was asked to react to Leal’s comments that he’s gotten closer to 300 pounds since being drafted by the team.
“He’s speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight,” Tomlin responded. “We’re just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want.”
Of course, some of those “NFL people” have been the Steelers’ own personnel. Since making the pick, outgoing GM Kevin Colbert acknowledged Leal’s need to bulk up in order to play along the Steelers’ defensive line with the likes of Cam Heyward.
“We think he can get a little bigger. We think he can get a little stronger,” Colbert said earlier this month.
Colbert and new DC Teryl Austin noted A&M’s defense moved Leal around quite a bit and asked him to play at al lighter weight. As more of a traditional base and sub-package end/tackle with the Steelers, he’ll need to tip the scales around 300 pounds. For Pittsburgh, it’s difficult finding the prototypical defensive linemen, the 6’5, 305 prospect with 34+ inch arms. It’s why the team traded up for Isaiahh Loudermilk last year, and even he lacked length (and a the time, weight, which he quickly brought back up) and why they took the chance on Leal, who fit those measurables close enough.
For Tomlin, his focus this weekend has nothing to do with the scale. It has everything to do with meeting his draft class and learning about what makes these guys tick.
“The reality is that we’re trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete and how his body works, what’s the optimal condition for him to be in. It would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys. Because we’re just getting to know them.”
Despite Tomlin’s comments, the best and smartest thing for Leal to do is follow Colbert’s instructions of getting bigger and stronger. Consistent run defense when two-gapping and taking on blocks was his Achilles heel last year and one reason why he fell into Day Two after being projected as a potential Top 15 pick a year ago. Pittsburgh’s run defense was miserable last season, statistically the worst in franchise history, and if new faces can’t help improve that, they won’t last long.