Glancing over any Pittsburgh Steelers players on the field before practice begins, DeMarvin Leal typically surround himself with those that contrast in size and speed. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference at the UPMC Rooney Complex that sort of company lends itself to the six-foot-four, 290-pound rookie defensive lineman’s unique talents.
“Elite defensive linemen are usually power players who are uniquely athletic or they’re simply oversized athletes,” Tomlin said after making it clear he wasn’t giving Leal such a label. “They have hand-eye coordination of smaller people. They play catch, they punt balls with DBs and so forth. Leal is that type of guy that kind of falls into that latter category. He doesn’t realize that he’s a lineman.”
Leal earned a start against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night and, along with fellow rookie Mark Robinson, contributed to a defensive effort that combatted the divisional rival’s persistent ground game. Leal had three tackles in the do-or-die win.
Leal saw more time than other defensive linemen such as Tyson Alualu, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Rennell Wren. It’s in the preparation leading up to matchups that Leal stands out, Tomlin said.
“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.”
DeMarvin Leal missed a good amount of time after having surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee in October. He played nearly a quarter of the team’s defensive snaps over the initial five weeks and showed the ability to play in different spots on the front.