DeMarvin Leal has been on injured reserve with a knee injury, but the promising rookie could return to the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers very soon.
T.J. Watt was obviously the most anticipated return for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. In his first game back against the New Orleans Saints, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year picked up right where he left off — consuming double teams and freeing up his teammates to make big plays.
Watt’s return was joined by safety Damontae Kazee — who also played a pivotal role in his first action as a member of the Steelers. But as the season goes on, one key defender has been quite forgotten: defensive lineman, DeMarvin Leal.
Leal was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Steelers. As a former oversized edge defender for Texas A&M, Leal has some nifty pass-rush moves and remarkable bend for a player his size (6’4”, 290 lbs). Though he has plenty of work to do as a run defender, the versatile defender was playing well for the Steelers prior to his injury, despite being asked to wear multiple hats.
Now as we get set to enter Week 11, Leal has officially returned to practice. The Pittsburgh Steelers will have up to 21 days to promote him to the active roster before he will be forced to miss the rest of the 2022 season.
When can Steelers fans expect to have Leal back?
This is expected to happen, but how soon is the question? After suffering a meniscus tear that required surgery four weeks ago, Leal was quick to hit the practice window. If he’s in football shape, he may be ready as early as the Bengals game this Sunday. However, it’s much more likely that he returns a week or two from now.
Knowing what’s on the line here, the Steelers would love to have all hands on deck against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. A loss could spell the end of playoff chances as falling to 3-7 and losing a divisional game would be catastrophic. On the other hand, Pittsburgh can keep their hopes alive by advancing to 4-6 and sneaking one game closer to .500 with a very easy slate of games coming up.
Early in his first NFL season, Leal has shifted around the line — playing anything from a pass-rushing 3-technique to an oversized base edge defender. Despite his size and his ideal fit on the inside, the 21-year-old was asked to fill in on the edge in the absence of T.J. Watt prior to his injury.
Leal’s game-by-game stats through five career games are nothing to write home, but he has come dangerously close to a few sacks this season and has been able to get quick pressure at times. The young defender could have a very bright career ahead of him, so it’s good to know the Steelers should be getting him back very soon.