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Steelers 3rd Round Draft Pick DeMarvin Leal Continues To Absolutely Dominate The Offensive Line In Training Camp

Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

Steelers 3rd Round Draft Pick DeMarvin Leal Continues To Absolutely Dominate The Offensive Line In Training Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense finished last in the NFL in stopping the run in 2021. The talking heads that get paid to spout opinions on the morning TV talk shows repeated this fact endlessly as the Steelers pushed towards an unlikely playoff bid last season. The reasons for the decline were legion, but the root cause was the absence of Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt. Pittsburgh was rotating every defensive linemen on the roster not named Cam Heyward desperately trying to find a combination that would work to improve the run defense.

Isaiahh Loudermilk

Jordan Schofield / Steeler Nation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

The story did not have a happy ending last year and Pittsburgh used their third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on a defensive lineman from the Texas A&M Aggies, DeMarvin Leal. The rookie, who displayed at the collegiate level that he may grow into an ideal defensive end in the 3-4 set, was an intriguing pick by Kevin Colbert. The Steelers had not taken a defensive lineman in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since Javon Hargrave in 2016.


Steelers Steal of the Draft, 3rd Rounder DL DeMarvin Leal, is a Must-See During Training Camp/Preseason Action Reveals NFL Analyst


Leal was seen as a ‘tweener,’ a little too small to be a nose guard and not quite explosive enough to be an impact edge rusher. Pittsburgh had lost the bully mentality you need to stop the run on the defensive line and even a cursory viewing of Leal’s tape reveals that he had that attitude in college. The good news for the Steelers is that part of his game is translating to the NFL in camp.

Training camp fights are a fact of life, and it isn’t necessarily an indicator of performance, but Leal demonstrated the second day in pads that he was not going to be pushed around, and that he was a physical presence to be reckoned with. Nick Farabaugh, who is the Steelers beat reporter for Pittsburgh Sports Now, has been a fixture at Steelers camp and based on his Twitter account, Leal is starting to pop out at practice.

Jordan Tucker is not projected to be a starting offensive lineman for the 2022 Steelers offense. However, he is a 340-pound undrafted free agent from the University of North Carolina who started 45 games in college. A third-round draft pick should beat an undrafted free agent in a drill, but Leal is dominating. He was not done with just beating Tucker.

That would be James Daniels, the fifth-year veteran free agent who has assumed a leadership role on the offensive line and is the highest regarded offensive lineman the Steelers have. The fact that he is beating a lineman the quality of Daniels decisively is a great sign for the defense. Leal and free agent signee Larry Ogunjobi, who also has been flashing since he returned to pads this week, is an important sign that Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane are going to stay clean on running plays.

The Steelers defense will be the highest paid unit in the NFL. The pass rush has been the best in the NFL for over half a decade and they have one of the best safeties in football in Minkah Fitzpatrick. The cornerbacks are expected to improve in coverage with the addition of Levi Wallace in free agency to pair with incumbents Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton. The run defense has to be a top 10 unit if they are going to be as dominant as they need to be, for the unit to be considered elite.

Steelers DeMarvin Leal

Jordan Schofield / Steeler Nation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

The impressive rookie from Texas A&M will be a key depth component along with Isaiahh Loudermilk and Chris Wormley. The Steelers starting defensive line is an aging unit and the younger backups will play a key role in providing quality reps as those player’s rest. If the defense can rotate six defensive linemen with no drop off in run defense, Pittsburgh could field another historically good defense.

 

What do you think, Steeler Nation? Are you excited about a potential six-man rotation on the defensive line? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

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