INDIANAPOLIS — Quarterback Kenny Pickett and wideout George Pickens got a lot of praise for their promising rookie campaigns, but the Pittsburgh Steelers and general manager Omar Khan are delighted, too, with the useful defensive presence they uncovered in the same draft class — defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal.
His multiple abilities pose a question, though. Do the Steelers want to position him on the defensive front full-time or have him as part of the depth on the edge?
“I think the great thing about DeMarvin is his versatility, and we’re not going to try to do anything that’s going to hinder his versatility,” Khan said to reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday. “We like that he can go inside, outside. Coach can utilize him in a lot of different places, and I foresee that continuing.”
After dealing with an injury during the middle part of the season, the Texas A&M product contributed to the successful stretch that gave his team the chance to make the postseason. His participation was at its highest against Baltimore in the penultimate contest of the go-round.
He was on the field for over half the defensive snaps against the Ravens and had three total takedowns.
Talking about what makes Leal stand out after that January start, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was complimentary of the young defender’s uncommon athleticism.
“Within a practice setting, he runs more and longer and harder and faster than most D-linemen,” he explained. “He likes to run, so those are just some of the physical things that he has brought and we’re working to hone and develop and shape into a game that kind of makes him an attractive young prospect to include sometimes in packages and game-planning.”
That gave DeMarvin Leal the chance to challenge Tyson Alualu and Isaiahh Loudermilk for playing time, while also backing up the tandem of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
It seems the team will count on Leal in the same ways it did last year, but what happens in free agency and the draft will make his role clearer.