The Pittsburgh Steelers designated rookie defensive end DeMarvin Leal to return to practice from the injured reserve list, the team announced on Wednesday.
Leal, the team’s third-round draft pick out of Texas A&M in the 2022 NFL Draft, had surgery to repair the meniscus on his right knee in October. The typical recovery time for that process is four-to-eight weeks, so he appears to be on the leading edge of that timeframe with his return to practice on Wednesday.
Leal will have 21 days to participate in practice while he remains on the injured reserve list. At that point, the Steelers will have to either decide to add him to the 53-man roster or allow him to remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Leal played close to a quarter of the team’s defensive snaps over the first five games, and showed his versatility by playing both 3-4 defensive end and rush end in the team’s 4-2 Nickel and 4-1 Dime packages. He got even more work in the latter role after the Week 1 injury to T.J. Watt opened up additional playing time. Through five games, Leal recorded nine tackles, one tackle for a loss and defended three passes.
Isaiahh Loudermilk has received additional playing time in Leal’s absence, though with Watt and Larry Ogunjobi returning to the lineup, Loudermilk was not used on Sunday. Montravius Adams and Chris Wormley dominated the backup snaps behind starters Ogunjobi and Cam Heyward on Sunday. Veteran Tyson Alualu has seen his reps consistently fall throughout the season.