PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are officially past the very beginning phase of the offseason program as rookie minicamp concluded at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Saturday. There are little things that the team can learn up front with the players, so what could the team potentially glean from the two days at rookie minicamp?
DeMarvin Leal’s Weight is the Topic to Watch
DeMarvin Leal is up to near 300 pounds, but that may not be the desired weight the Steelers want. Being a tweener is never easy at the NFL or college level, but Leal did it at a high level.
The thing that forced him into the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft is that, at a weight of 283 pounds, he ran a 5.0-second 40-yard dash. Leal is not big enough to play inside at the NFL level, but not quick enough to play edge rusher, either. That left Leal in a bit of a tough spot, but evidently, he has put on weight. The Steelers are apparently looking at him as a 2i through 5-technique, or everywhere other than nose tackle
Leal has some great traits. For one, his hands are great. There is fantastic pop behind them. In addition, he has never been a guy who has effort questions. His motor runs hot and he has the natural athleticism to make special plays. Still, the question for Leal is if his new weight would allow his explosiveness to stick. Moreover, his special gap penetrating ability thanks to his elite agility and ankle flexibility had to stick, too. The good news is that if Leal is up to 300 pounds, he does look explosive and certainly quick.
Leal has some room to fill out his lower half. His arms and shoulders look like they were chiseled. Meanwhile, the sports a svelte look, and there is no bad weight in his midsection. It all seems to stem from his legs. He has to get stronger in his lower body to have the anchor ability to withstand double teams on the interior.
The bigger things for Leal will be filling out that lower half and continuing his explosiveness to make everything tie a bow nicely together. He is a dynamic rusher from multiple spots which makes Leal’s potential extremely high. If the extra weight gives him the lower body strength he needed, Leal can make an impact right away in subpackages.
Mark Robinson’s Coverage Ability
Mark Robinson is an interesting player to watch. While he has shrugged off coverage concerns from doubters, the questions remain about his coverage ability. There is plenty of athleticism and first step twitch right away from him, but Robinson’s lack of reps in coverage and concerns are valid.
However, he is a vocal football guy. A converted running back, Robinson loves to lay the wood. He is likely to work at the Buck linebacker role where less stress will be placed on him in coverage. However, there are some moments where he looks a bit too clunky in those drills. He is still learning the specifics of the position. On tape, Robinson looked lost in coverage at times. The downhill speed and sideline-to-sideline range are not the questions. However, there is serious doubt if he will be able to flip his hips and mirror.
For a seventh-round pick, Robinson’s upside and tone-setting ability make him worthy of a draft pick. That makes a lot of sense for the Steelers. But nonetheless, if he wants to have more upside than a special teamer, his coverage ability will have to stand at the forefront of his game. As it stands right now, that is still a serious doubt.
Chris Steele Could be the Sleeper of the UDFA Class
If there is someone to watch from the undrafted free agent crop on defense, it might be USC cornerback Chris Steele. Steele is someone who has plenty of traits that present themselves to be a decent NFL cornerback. The untapped potential with Steele, who was highly decorated coming out of high school, is fairly obvious.
He has 4.48 speed and pairs it with high-level explosiveness. Add in plenty of fluidity and prototypical size, and Steele checks off all four boxes on the physical traits chart. It shows up on the field too, as Steele just moves differently than others who are in his position. That does not mean he is guaranteed to succeed, as Steele lacks a feel for spacing in zone coverage and has to completely rework his footwork, however, there is a baseline here for something to come of him if he can be developed.
For the Steelers, Steele will have to impress on special teams. The traits are there, and Steele is a junkyard dog in the screen game. Still, his rawness around his game, especially with his footwork, could hold him back, but if he can hone some of that potential, there are traits that could maybe stick.