On Thursday, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie defensive lineman, DeMarvin Leal returned to practice. While he still remains on IR, it opened up the 21-day window in which he must be activated in order to return to the field this season. He’s been out since the team’s Week 5 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills, when he suffered a knee injury.
Leal had to have meniscus surgery, landing him on the IR. It came at quite an unfortunate time, as he was just beginning to see the field more and more. When speaking with reporters on Thursday, the rookie was asked if he’s 100% healthy. This is what he had to say in response:
“Yeah, I am [100%]. I’m close. They just need to see me just be able to go throughout reps and not be tired and just be able to ball out and be myself completely on the field,” Leal said on what he thinks the team will need to see in order to activate him.
It seems he’s unlikely to play this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals, but anything is possible. In Week 12, the Steelers get an extra day of rest, as they face the Indianapolis Colts in primetime on Monday Night Football. Perhaps that may be the game that Leal will return, as that would mark nearly two months since his injury.
In that last game that he played against the Bills, Leal played a career-high 41.1% of the team’s defensive snaps. That continued a steady increase in his playing time, as he has impressed the coaches, including head coach, Mike Tomlin. While the rookie has been out, there are still things that he has been able to do in order to continue to mature in his first professional season:
“Just sticking to the playbook. Being in meetings when I need to, being on time,” Leal said to reporters on Thursday. “Still talking to guys, still trying to learn stuff. Even if I’m not on the field, I can see it from a different perspective now.”
Leal has quite the mentors on that defense to learn from. Particularly amongst the defensive line unit, Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu are two tremendous veterans to learn from. Both have played at elite levels in their careers as well, so they know what it takes to get to the top. That should bode well for the future of a guy like DeMarvin Leal.
When do you think Leal will return to the lineup? How many snaps do you think he will see when he does return? What are your expectations for the black and gold against the Bengals this weekend? As always, share your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to interact with our social media sites as well!
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