The Pittsburgh Steelers as an organization has a reputation, and for the most part this reputation is a good one. Every NFL team has their blemishes, but the Steelers have always been considered to be a gold standard organization in the NFL.
One of the benefits of this reputation is when players, both NFL Draft prospects and free agents, have the desire to play for the Steelers. Whether it be because of coaches like Mike Tomlin and Brian Flores, or other star players like Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt, there are many players who view the Steelers as a marquee franchise where they hope to end up.
NFL veterans entering free agency have their choice of teams, but players entering the draft have to just hope they land on a team they find to be a good fit. For a defender becoming a professional, landing in Pittsburgh would likely be viewed as a dream come true. For Steelers 3rd round pick DeMarvin Leal, he was hoping he was drafted by the Steelers.
“It’s a dream come true and honestly, just pinch me because it’s just so unreal. I was excited because this is the place I wanted to come.” Leal said.
Was Leal’s desire to come to Pittsburgh because of Cam Heyward? Was it because of Brian Flores? No, it was because of Karl Dunbar, the team’s defensive line coach who attended the Texas A&M pro day.
“It was mainly because of Coach Dunbar that I was excited,” said Leal. “He’s an amazing coach. I definitely felt like our conversation. It automatically clicked and right away I felt like this is a place I want to play. This is the coach I want to play for.
“When we first talked, we hit it off, talked good ball, and he talked to my family, and I could tell they were interested as well. Talking to all the coaches at the Combine, a day full of meetings, he was special. I’m genuinely excited to be a part of the organization.”
The Steelers have long held the reputation for being a family organization. No, not just because the Rooney family still has controlling interest in the team, but because the owners down to the coaches want to cultivate a family environment built on trust. Clearly, Dunbar got that point across in their meetings together.
“We talked about each other, we talked about family,” said Leal. “We talked about our beliefs. I really liked that. He talked about his story, how he’s came about, how everything has worked out for him. That’s what made it click here. We weren’t just talking X’s and O’s. We were talking football yes, but we were talking family and everything and that is who he is about.
“He talked about what he sees me doing, how he’s going to be able to help me develop my game as well. It was unbelievable conversation, and I was excited from it and everything he said I was agreeing with. I was telling him, let’s do it.”
There are plenty of Steelers fans who wonder just what Leal brings to the defense. Some view him as a “tweener” without a genuine position to call home. He isn’t the typical size for a defensive tackle/end in a 3-4 scheme, but also doesn’t have the athleticism of an outside linebacker. However, Leal knows what he brings, and many of these are intangibles.
“I bring youth, confidence, I’m extremely disruptive and I’m smart on the field,” said Leal. “I am intelligent when it comes to what I see, my instincts and following those, so I feel like that’s something to bring to the table.”
But for now, Leal knows the job at hand is to put his head down and work. To listen to everything his coaches and teammates tell him to help him succeed at the highest level. Or as he calls it, being a “sponge”.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Leal said. “I want to be a sponge. I want to soak it all in, learn as much wisdom as possible from them guys. I am going to listen to them like big brothers. There’s always already a standard here. There’s already that culture. I want to be part of this and be trusted and the one way to do that is to listen to those guys.”
The Steelers certainly need an injection of youth into their defensive line, and Leal provides not only that but an option if the Steelers learn they won’t have Stephon Tuitt’s services next season. With the Steelers leaning more than ever on their sub packages, Leal’s unique size and skill set could be a great asset to the defense for years to come.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp.