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: Up
Reasoning: With the decision of Stephon Tuitt to retire now being official, it greatly increases the chances of rookie third-round pick being a contributor this season, and possibly even a significant one.
While it was a great disappointment, though certainly not a surprise, when the Steelers made the official announcement that Stephon Tuitt would be retiring, it was ultimately good news for the rest of the defensive linemen who would have been playing behind him, at least in terms of the odds of their being able to contribute, and in some cases keeping a job.
Rookie third-round draft pick DeMarvin Leal probably didn’t have to worry too much about his job security—it’s very, very rare for a third-round pick to be cut without extenuating circumstances before his first season, and I don’t think the Steelers have ever done it.
But he very well could have been watching from the bench quite a bit. That’s still possible, mind you. If the season started today, he would be the sixth defensive lineman, and the Steelers very rarely dress more than five, though they could always make exceptions.
With Tuitt now out of the picture, though, it greatly increases his chances of being able to participate. Chris Wormley (presumably) will now be working in the starting lineup, and Leal can compete with Isaiahh Loudermilk, as well as Tyson Alualu and Montravius Adams in sub-packages, for playing time.
What he could really do to help himself is get comfortable around Danny Smith. The Steelers are not completely averse to using defensive linemen in special teams units, as both Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis have been seen on kick coverage. Leal does probably have the athleticism to put himself in that conversation to contribute there.
This is so obvious that it need not be said, but he stands a much better chance of playing on defense if he can guarantee himself a weekly (or thereabouts) helmet because he is also playing on special teams, rather than hoping that the weekly roster works out in such a way as to allow them to dress six linemen organically.