How do the Steelers addition of Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig affect DeMarvin Leal?
When we talk about the draft value, the Pittsburgh Steelers with each of their draft picks in 2023. Which is reminiscent of the DeMarvin Leal selection in the 2022 draft. Leal had been projected as a possible first-round draft pick in 2022. The Steelers still found him sitting on the draft board in the 3rd round and quickly selected him; while getting Leal may have been good value, you can argue how that translated based on his rookie season.
Leal did not have a stellar season by any stretch. He finished with 14 combined tackles and eight solo tackles. He only played eleven games but missed a few games to injury, which didn’t help his 2023 campaign. Looking ahead to year two, how does he fit into Pittsburgh's defensive plan?
How the Steelers can use Leal, Benton and Herbig
However, the Steelers drafted Keeanu Benton in their 2023 draft, which faces impacts Leal’s future with the Steelers. How will the Steelers decide to use Leal in 2023, or will they?
The Steelers normal front four would be Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi at defensive tackle and T.J.Watt and Alexh Highsmith as the outside linebackers. The Steelers did want a third option for both positions. Leal appeared to be the man for one of the positions, but the 2023 draft may have changed that.
Hence they drafted Keeanu Benton, who will, according to the coach's press conference after his selection, be used in the defensive tackle slot. Well, they will see how he plays there; they could move him around too. Then Nick Herbig will apparently be the outside linebacker, well, the backup to start.
Mike Tomlin had indicated before the draft they would wait for the draft to see who they get before deciding to move Leal to the interior as the third lineman or to the outside as the third edge rusher. The Steelers had also played Leal in various positions in 2023 as a stand-up Joker linebacker, an edge rusher, a defensive end, and a three-technique defensive tackle. Tomlin tried to get a feel for how they could best utilize him. However, the Steelers selections of Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig could derail plans to put Leal anywhere.
Benton would now appear destined to be the third defensive lineman behind Heyward and Ogunjobi. The Steelers apparently plan to use Herbig at the outside linebacker position, making him the third man there.
However, while the apparent plan is for the Steelers to put Herbig on the outside, it’s always possible they move him inside, allowing a spot for Leal on the edge as the third man. The Steelers will make that decision in training camp, but it would seem inevitable he plays outside linebacker. Thus if one were to wager on where Leal goes, it might be at defensive end. It would be the only place to put him.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Leal in 2023. There is still potential for home to grow, but it almost appears he may get pushed out too. Then again, if he has some good pre-season games, perhaps everything gets re-evaluated. We will have to wait and see what kind of training cam Leal has before we know his ultimate fate in 2023.