Sunday, August 7, 2022

Steelers have a “must-see” rookie defenseman who flies under the radar

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We’re less than a week into a Pittsburgh Steelers training camp where the lion’s share of attention is focused on offense — with competition to replace Ben Roethlisberger and “eye-opening” drills from rookie wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III overshadows other potential storylines.

Meanwhile, rookie defense lineman Demarvin Leal has had a good start to training camp, and a former scout — NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks — has named Leal the rookie defense lineman he’s “most excited to see.” to follow him over the next month”.

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“The highly talented Leal could enjoy an excellent rookie season in a defense that will allow him to play fast and free on the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder is a long, rangy center back with the power and athleticism to drive guards and tackles crazy in attack,” Brooks writes, alluding to how the Texas A&M product (Selected #84 overall), benefiting from being part of a front-seven comprised of first-team All-Pro Cameron Heyward and reigning Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt.

“If Leal quickly grasps the concepts and techniques being preached by defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, third-round picks could become a problem for opponents trying to attack the middle of the Steelers defense,” concludes Brooks.

Still, Leal expects to get plenty of replays in camp as Tyson Alualu remains on the list of physically unfit Larry Ogunjobi with knee swelling and free agent acquisitions as he continues his recovery from the Lisfranc injury he suffered towards the end of last season.

On the other hand, there are other more experienced defenders who may stand in the way of Leal’s game-time path, including Chris Wormley and Montravius ​​Adams, not to mention Isaiahh Loudermilk, who was picked for the fifth round in 2021. And don’t forget Carlos and Khalil Davis, who both face an uphill battle when it comes to making the 53-man roster but appear to be good candidates for the practice team.

As for the rest of the 2022 draft class in Pittsburgh, early reviews are mostly very positive. For one, third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool has already predicted that second-round pick George Pickens “will be the best rookie receiver in the NFL.” Meanwhile, fellow player Calvin Austin III lived up to his bill as the “biggest Day 3 steal” yet. And Connor Heyward, selected in the sixth round, was dubbed the team’s “surprising offseason standout.”

On the other hand, first-round pick Kenny Pickett struggled in the first week of camp, but that’s common with rookie quarterbacks and “not a problem right now,” says The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.

As for Leal, his selection will always be tied to Baltimore’s decision to take on Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones, who was drafted by the Ravens eight picks earlier. The Steelers “hoped to have a chance” to pick Jones, noted longtime Steelers insider Gerry Dulac after the 2022 draft.

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