Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL DeMarvin Leal
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The rookie defensive lineman will likely have quite a difficult time dressing for games this season following the Steelers’ signing of Larry Ogunjobi, who figures to enter the starting lineup and knock everybody but Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu down one role.
One of the crappy parts about this job is that being objective sometimes means stepping on toes. It sucks to hear from a father or an agent or even a player who’s not happy about something you wrote, or to one day find out you’re blocked, or to see your article getting retweeted with a negative connotation when all that you’ve done is take an objective look the player’s position within the team.
Every defensive lineman who is not a starter saw his stock get lowered, for example, when the Steelers signed Larry Ogunjobi. That’s just a fact. A new starter at the position was brought in, and that means the role of everybody behind him is reduced—and somebody is even going to lose a job.
That’s probably not going to be DeMarvin Leal, but there’s a good chance, barring health, that he spends the vast majority of his rookie season sitting on the bench watching others contribute. Does this June analysis mean anything, and should he care? No, not unless he wants to use it as fuel, which, if that works for him, by all means.
But with Heyward, Alualu, and Ogunjobi starting, you have Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams returning as the likely gameday reserves. The only time they’ve ever dressed six unless a starter was injured was when one of the linemen was playing on special teams.
Assuming that the Steelers don’t actually keep seven defensive linemen, then, Leal could even theoretically be fighting for a roster spot with Isaiahh Loudermilk, and/or Adams and/or Wormley.
Of course, this is all a discussion on paper. Leal will have the chance to state his case during training camp and the preseason. If he shows up well enough, then there is no significant limit on his role. There’s nothing, in theory, stopping him from claiming a major chunk of playing time this year as long as his play dictates it.
But the Ogunjobi signing makes it that much harder to obtain. And so his stock is down as a result, because it decreases the likelihood of his gaining significant playing time as a rookie.