DeMarvin Leal ‘Kind Of Knew The Steelers Is Where I Would End Up’ After Pro Day Dinner With DL Coach Karl Dunbar

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up to introduce their latest rookie class later this week. They currently hold seven selections overall, including three in the top 49 picks, and it would not be altogether shocking if one of them were to be used on a defensive lineman.

It’s likely they will draft one at some point over the weekend, however, joining last year’s third-round pick, DeMarvin Leal, in the same room. Reflecting on his own draft experience recently for the team’s website, Leal recalls the moment he realized he had a very good chance of becoming a Steeler.

I met with [defensive line coach] Karl Dunbar at my pro day”, he wrote. “That is when I kind of knew the Steelers is where I would end up. We had a nice dinner. He just wanted to pick my brain, challenging me a little bit. Just wanted to see where I was, what I can bring to the table. It was so valuable”.

Dunbar has been Pittsburgh’s defensive line coach since 2018 after taking over the role from John Mitchell, who held the post for many years. He is generally regarded as one of the best position coaches on head coach Mike Tomlin’s staff and frequently seems to get praise from his players above and beyond the norm.

He also fits Tomlin’s own preferences about being hands-on in the pre-draft process. You’ll often find Dunbar with his boots on the ground, working out prospects on the field himself, and, as in this case, taking them out to dinner to get to know them. It also, by the way, says a little something about the Steelers’ belief in his ability to read people.

Leal is the fifth defensive lineman the Steelers have drafted under Dunbar in as many drafts, though, as a third-round selection, he is the first high draft pick. The first two were actually his own players, having come over from Alabama, with Joshua Frazier in the seventh round in 2018 and Isaiah Buggs in the sixth in 2019. They drafted Carlos Davis in the seventh round in 2020, then Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth in 2021.

Of the four, only Loudermilk remains on the 90-man roster today, along with Leal, of course. As a rookie, Leal logged 175 snaps in 11 games, missing some time due to injury. He finished the year with 14 tackles, one for loss, with three passes defensed.

What his long-term future, or position, will be is something that has been debated. Some feel he needs to put on weight to play along the line, while others take the opposite approach, suggesting he could play off the edge. The Steelers, up to this point, have instead seemed to encourage his versatility and ability to be moved around the field.

Chances are very good Dunbar gets another player to add to his room this weekend alongside Leal. It’s possible that it could come as early as the first round with somebody like Lukas Van Ness, though perhaps it’s more likely that a day two selection would fit the bill, if not day three.

We do know that Dunbar was in attendance at at least three Pro Days this year: Clemson, Bowling Green, and Western Kentucky. Clemson is obviously the most notable with Bryan Bresee, a potential first-round selection. A mid-round possibility from Bowling Green is Karl Brooks, while Western Kentucky’s Brodric Martin could be a day-three option—especially if they manage to trade back.

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