Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal has been designated to return by the team, opening up his 21-day window to return to the team’s 53-man roster. The team made the announcement moments ago.
Leal was placed on IR with a knee injury on October 15th. He’ll now have 21 days, December 7th, to be activated off IR and land back on the team’s 53-man roster or remain on IR for the rest of the season.
Following T.J. Watt’s season-opening injury, Leal had a larger role in the Steelers’ defense than anticipated. Across five games, he played nearly 100 defensive snaps, registering nine tackles and three pass deflections. An impressive athlete, Leal was used as a hybrid rush end in the Steelers’ 3-3-5 packages as one way to replace Watt’s snaps. At Texas A&M, Leal rotated between playing as a down defensive lineman and outside linebacker.
Pittsburgh drafted Leal in the third round of the 2022 draft. Once thought to be a first round candidate, his draft stock slipped a bit his senior season and many draftniks considered him a tweener. But Leal flashed this summer and made a quicker-than-expected impact this season.
The Steelers’ defensive line is currently crowded with six on the 53-man roster in Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams, Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, and Isaiahh Loudermilk. If the group stays healthy if and when Leal returns, he could take Loudermilk’s place as a weekly active player.
Pittsburgh’s defense has gotten healthier in recent weeks with T.J. Watt and Damontae Kazee coming off IR to play in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints. The unit will look to get back LB Myles Jack, who dressed but did not play in Week 10, and FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, who could suit up this weekend after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last Friday. In a few weeks, Leal could join that list of healthy players.