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DeMarvin Leal proving to be more valuable, and versatile, than anyone thought entering the draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers second year defensive lineman has been anything other than just your standard defensive lineman.

NFL: DEC 18 Steelers at Panthers Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last year around this time fans and media alike were intrigued by the Pittsburgh Steelers 3rd Round pick out of Texas A&M, DeMarvin Leal. Leal was the definition of a “tweener”, a player who doesn’t fall perfectly into a singular position at the NFL level, but he provides a tremendous amount of talent.

In his rookie season, Leal showed he is capable of playing multiple positions, even positions which he had never played before since leaving High School.

“It didn’t mirror my college (experience) at all,” Leal maintained. “Last year, shoot, it even looked like I was a middle linebacker at one point. That wasn’t the case at all in college. There are definitely different things I came here and did and just expended more athleticism, trying to show a lot more in everything I do.”

When he was entering the NFL, fans and media were highly intrigued with what the team was going to do with Leal. There were reports of his weight ballooning after the draft, which made many believe he would be used in the Stephon Tuitt role along the defensive front. Others wondered if he would eventually slim down and be more of a player on the edge.

What ended up happening was he played more positions than he could count.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Leal acknowledged. “I didn’t keep track. I was just doing what I was told. I definitely did more than I thought (he’d be asked to do as a rookie) but I was prepared for it. I just had to listen, know what I had to do, ask the questions that I needed to ask and then everything else was going to take care of itself.”

With the experience of playing all those roles behind him, now comes the time when he can utilize that experience and prepare for a breakout season in Year 2 with the Steelers.

“Most definitely,” Leal said. “You see it from all different perspectives. I got a better idea of who I am. Just looking forward to making it more consistent and just keep moving forward.”

The Steelers are hopeful Leal can be a large part of the team’s defensive plan in 2023. In doing so, it would take pressure off players like Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi from being relied upon for over 75% of the defensive snaps. A healthy rotation, which will likely include Leal as a fixture in it, will benefit the defense as a whole.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.