Tim Benz: Steelers rookie DeMarvin Leal 'touching the waters' with decision to add some weight - jobs fights tigma
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Tim Benz: Steelers rookie DeMarvin Leal ‘touching the waters’ with decision to add some weight

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Tim Benz: Steelers rookie DeMarvin Leal ‘touching the waters’ with decision to add some weight

Given the thirst so many people had for the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft a defensive lineman, I’m sure the instant reaction from most was to applaud when DeMarvin Leal’s name popped up next to the franchise’s logo in the third round last month.

But that may have been followed by some confusion when they saw his size, read his scouting reports and watched his tape. At just under 6-foot-4 and 283 pounds coming out of Texas A&M, Leal rushed in a way that Steelers fans could’ve said, “He’s Bud Dupree (6’4″, 269 lb) if he loses 15 pounds. ”

Or, especially given the Steelers’ need for youth at depth at defensive end, the more practical projection is, “If he puts on 10-20 pounds, he can be the next Stephon Tuitt (6’6”, 303 lb) or Cameron Heyward (6’5 “, 295 lb).”

In fact, if you read the Pro Football Network pre-draft scouting report on Leal, he certainly sounds like a lighter version of those two stalwarts upfront for the Steelers.

“Leal has the size to play inside as a defensive tackle but the explosion of a defensive end. He possesses exceptional athleticism for his size, impressive change-of-direction ability, and enough speed to be a problem as an outside rusher.

Leal’s athletic prowess means that he can effortlessly line up outside but work inside as a pass rusher. His lateral agility is one of the most impressive elements of his NFL Draft scouting report.

In addition to his size and athletic ability, Leal is blessed with remarkable arm length. This enables him to be disruptive in multiple ways. Leal uses his length at the point of attack to cause issues in the ground game. Additionally, he uses his arms to get up and disrupt the ball in the air. ”

With the Steelers lining up in sub-packages as much as they do these days, those are encouraging attributes. But does Leal have the beef to be a workhorse against the run? That’s an area where the team was gashed with Tuitt absent all season and Tyson Alualu on injured reserve for the last 15 games.

“I definitely can stop the run. I feel that I’ve shown that with my film, ”Leal said Saturday at the Steelers rookie minicamp. “And then also just working on my pass rush a lot more. Trying to be more into my bag (of tricks) and more into my technique with my hands. ”

Leal says he has already put on roughly 15 pounds. So, if that’s the case, based on his 283 pounds at the combine, he’d be just shy of 300.

Leal said he’s “just trying out” the additional weight, just “touching the waters” to see if he can maintain his athleticism with the additional bulk.

But coach Mike Tomlin wanted to stress that the organization has not put any sort of directive toward Leal to add pounds.

“He’s speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight,” Tomlin said. “We’re just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want. The reality is that we’re trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete and how his body works, what’s the optimal condition for him to be in, etc. And so, it would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys because we’re just getting to know them. ”

Leal, who moved up and down the defensive line during his time at College Station, definitely seemed to have the same job description that is asked of Steelers defensive linemen.

“Stop the run. Get after the QB. Just be disruptive. Just make sure I can help my other teammates get things open on different pass-rush situations, ”Leal said. “Stay low. Hands. Getting off the ball. ”

That’s exactly what Tuitt and Heyward do when they are at their best, as Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith did before them.

And as the Steelers hope Leal will do in the future.

If he’s physically mature enough and stout enough to help in the present will be the big question for Tomlin and the defensive coaching staff to figure out as the Steelers have three games – against two division opponents (Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns) who can run the ball – within the first 12 days of 2022 season.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.

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