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Steelers, Teryl Austin Pleased With Recovery Process For Rookie DeMarvin Leal: ‘Like Where He Is Going’

After having nearly the entire projected starting lineup back for the Week 11 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals in what appeared to be the healthiest the team has been since training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers are moving one step closer to being completely healthy late in the 2022 season.

Though cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon continues to deal with a hamstring injury, rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is moving closer and closer to his return from a knee injury suffered in mid-October that landed him on the Reserve/Injured List.

Leal played 96 defensive snaps for the Steelers through the first five games of the season before suffering an injury in practice in Week 6 ahead of the matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that required him to have surgery and which landed him on the Reserve/Injured List.

Now, Leal is moving closer and closer to a return. The Steelers activated his 21-day window to return from IR on Nov. 16, meaning he must be activated to the 53-man roster by December 7.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, speaking with reporters Thursday from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side following practice on Thanksgiving Day, stated that the Steelers like where Leal is at in his recovery process from the knee injury.

“We like where he is going. He’s moving around, and he’s a young guy, got fresh legs and we liked what he was doing before the injury, so we’ll see where he is,” Austin stated to reporters, according to audio via Steelers.com. “I think we’ll evaluate it at the end of the week and see if he can help us. And if he can then he’ll be there. If not, then we’ll wait another week.”

Getting Leal back late in the season would be a nice boost for the Steelers from a pass rush perspective. With Watt out of the lineup, Leal saw an increased role and responded well with nine tackles and three pass deflections, moving all over the defensive front under Austin to provide offenses with new looks in the Steelers’ hybrid 3-3-5 defense with the rookie lined up as a rush end.

Once he’s back in the mix, it will be interesting to see what the Steelers have in store for Leal. Currently, the Steelers’ defensive line is crowded with six players on the 53-man roster in Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams, Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, and Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Should the defensive line room remain healthy when Leal returns, the rookie could take Loudermilk’s place as a weekly active player.

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