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Steelers DL Tabbed as Potential Trade Candidate



Steelers DE Demarvin Leal

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarvin Leal showed promise in his rookie season in 2022, but for some reason he took a massive step back in 2023.

His rookie year wasn’t statistically dominant, but he got enough playing time to look like he could be a future piece of the puzzle. He also saw a different role, playing less edge rusher (33 snaps), more 3-4 end (106 snaps) and more defensive tackle (66 snaps). He actually played more in 2023 than 2022, but almost all of that playing time came in the first third of the season. He did not play 10 snaps in a game after Week 10. He wasn’t dressed at all for four of the team’s final five games. That’s not how a young player wants to finish his season.

With Leal struggling to develop, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks the former Texas A&M product could be dealt in a trade this offseason, or at some point during training camp and the preseason.

“Occasionally, players who can have some value to other teams in trade talks are ones that have decent draft pedigree and physical attributes, measurables and just haven’t panned out in the NFL,” Batko said on the North Shore Nine podcast. “I look at the Steelers’ D-line, kind of go down the list, DeMarvin Leal, third-rounder a couple years ago just has not panned out here through two seasons. A little bit injury-induced, but I think more so just hasn’t developed the way they want.”

Leal came out of Texas A&M measuring at 6-foot-3, 283 pounds. That’s an odd size for what the 3-4 Steelers usually look for in defenders. Steelers 3-4 end and four-man front tackle Cam Heyward is 6-foot-5, 295 pounds. Steelers 3-4 outside linebacker and four-man front end T.J. Watt is 6-foot-4, 251 pounds.

That made Leal a “tweener,” and it made it hard to see exactly where he’d fit in with the team in his future. In 2022, he played 1-4 snaps as an edge rusher, 20 snaps over the tackle as a 3-4 end and 43 snaps as an interior defensive lineman, according to PFF’s charting.

Alan Saunders of Steelers Now asked Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin if he still sees a place for Leal in the team’s future plans, and he said they did, but seemed to imply that the answer lies with Leal.

“There certainly is, but he’s got to be a component of that,” Tomlin said at his season-ending press conference. “Obviously, we put helmets on guys that we think are best positioned to help us secure victory and he hadn’t been a component of that. And so, he’s got some work to do.”

So how does Leal plan to move forward after a disheartening second half of the season?

“I think it’s just get with the coaches, like I plan on doing some time this week and just reflecting on the season and just taking all those scratches and all those situations just healing from it, taking it and using it as momentum for next year,” he said. “We’ll see exactly what they want from me, what they need me to do and we’ll get to it.”