2022 South Side Questions: Who’s Roster Spot Does DeMarvin Leal Take When He Returns?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in the scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Whose roster spot does DeMarvin Leal take when he returns to the 53-man roster?

It’s always—or at least often—interesting when a player is set to return from the Reserve/Injured List because it leaves the team with a decision to make. Sometimes it’s an easy and obvious one, but other times, not so much. Who gets cut to make room for the player who’s returning?

Frequently, there will be a one-for-one substitution if a player had been signed to fill the role that the injured player served. When the Steelers just brought back outside linebacker T.J. Watt, they needed only to waive the bottom man on the outside linebacker totem pole, Ryan Anderson.

It’s not so simple with rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal working his way back. With the third-round pick officially practicing yesterday, the question about his return is now relevant, as he can be activated any day now in the next three weeks.

Pittsburgh did not replace him with another defensive lineman when they shelved him. They already had seven with him, and the six that they still have is plenty. Could they now decide that they don’t need six? That’s unlikely considering the previous seventh, Isaiahh Loudermilk, has been dressing and playing since Leal’s injury—although he did not play on defense Sunday.

So where, if not the defensive line, might they turn for a roster spot? As I mentioned previously when discussing potential moves for players coming off of IR, there are more offensive linemen and inside linebackers than are needed. Kendrick Green hasn’t dressed for a game this season. While Marcus Allen is a prominent contributor on special teams—they even recently used him to convert a fourth-down fake punt—he and rookie Mark Robinson should be under consideration.

I might mention Josh Jackson, the cornerback, but with William Jackson III on the Reserve/Injured List now, I think that’s less likely. Another special teams option I wouldn’t bet on is safety Miles Killebrew in the wake of Damontae Kazee’s return. Killebrew has played nearly 70 percent of all special teams snaps this year.

One other name I hesitate to mention is Tyson Alualu, who logged just six snaps on Sunday. He hasn’t played more than 27 percent of the snaps in any game since week three. But I have a hard time believing this would be the move, even if partially from a non-football point of view.

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