Recently added weight could help Steelers young defensive linemen
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for life without Stephon Tuitt, and bulking up their young defensive linemen is a step in the right direction.
Adding weight isn’t necessarily a good thing for players across all positions in the NFL. Some positions covet speed and quickness over strength and power at the point of attack.
In many cases, a player’s desired size and bulk is a case-by-case basis that has to be determined by the coaching staff and what they are looking for. Weight gain has been a topic of discussion among a few Pittsburgh Steelers players this offseason. Najee Harris recently claimed that he’s essentially right on track weight-wise with where he was last year and that his weight is a non-story.
I would agree. However, there are two other players who have gained significant weight this offseason, and I think it’s going to work out for the benefit of the team.
The Steelers now know for certain that Stephon Tuitt will not be part of the long-term plan. The talented defensive lineman recently retired from football after sitting out the entire 2021 season.
Replacing him won’t be easy, but the Steelers have taken some proactive measures. According to reports from Nick Farabaugh and Chris Adamski, Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal have both gained significant weight since entering the NFL.
After entering his 2021 Wisconsin Pro Day at just 274 pounds, Loudermilk is reportedly up to 310 pounds as of Steelers OTAs. Meanwhile, Leal — who weighed just 283 pounds at the 2022 NFL Combine and was thought to be stuck in between positions — is now roughly 305 pounds.
Added bulk will help Steelers DL
While adding this much weight isn’t always a good thing, it should be in this instance. Isaiahh Loudermilk flashed at times as a rookie in 2021, but he clearly needed to play with a more consistent anchor. This added bulk should help.
Likewise, the plan for Demarvin Leal is to be an interior defender, not an oversized based edge defender like he was at Texas A&M. Getting him up to roughly 305 pounds is a big win.
Statistically, Pittsburgh had the worst run defense in the NFL last season, as they were bulldozed for 143.8 yards per game on a whopping 5.0 yards per carry, according to Team Rankings. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar knows that can’t happen again in 2022.
Loudermilk and Leal were already long, semi-athletic defensive linemen with solid upside. Now they have the added mass to with it. Though this could cause them to lose a step when it comes to quickness or tracking down the ball carrier, this increased play strength will help them hold up at the point of attack play after play.
I’ll be curious to see the results of these transformations this year. The Steelers are going to need all the help they can provide next to Cameron Heyward in the interior defensive line. I’m hopeful that Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal will be able to offer this team a noticeable boost in this department in 2022.