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2023 Offseason Questions: Will DeMarvin Leal Become A Starter For Steelers?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead, they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answering, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: Will DeMarvin Leal become a starting defensive lineman for Pittsburgh?

Drafted in the third round in 2022, DeMarvin Leal is only heading into his second season after playing 175 snaps as a rookie across 11 games. He missed time in the middle of the year while on the Reserve/Injured List, but was able to log 15-plus defensive snaps in the majority of the games in which he played.

The young Texas A&M product is undeniably talented. Surely the Steelers drafted him believing that he has the physical capability of developing into a starter. But a starting role has to be earned, and there has to be an opportunity.

It’s realistic that there could be an opening as soon as this year, as 2022 starter Larry Ogunjobi, a potential one-year rental, is going to be back on the free agent market come March. They paid him $8 million to play last year, but he’ll be looking for a more long-term (and more lucrative) deal this go around.

That doesn’t mean they won’t sign somebody else. Or they could even use a first-round draft pick on a plug-and-play starting defensive lineman. I think we can safely assume that he won’t simply be handed a starting job, though he may be presented with the opportunity of earning it.

That said, it’s no guarantee that it ever happens. His game is still raw in certain areas. There are even questions about whether he should gain weight and stay as a lineman or try to drop weight and play as a hybrid player or outside linebacker.

Leal was only 21 years old when the Steelers drafted him. He’s a young man in need of maturation in numerous areas, as basically everybody would be at that age. He will be the author of his own story, in the long run. But of what has been written so far, where do you think it’s heading?

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