Steelers Predicted to Consider Trading Another NFL Draft Bust

DeMarvin Leal

Getty The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Brian Batko named former third-round pick DeMarvin Leal as a potential trade candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded quarterback Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. Last year, the Steelers dealt offensive lineman Kendrick Green to the Houston Texans. Both players were disappointments as either a first-round or Day 2 draft selection for Pittsburgh.

But the Steelers may not be done trading away underachieving draft picks from the Kevin Colbert era. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko argued on March 29 that the Steelers could shop defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal this offseason.

“Any trade, you look to deal from a position of strength to help shore up a position of weakness. One spot on the Steelers roster that at least has depth from top to bottom is the defensive line,” Batko said on the North Shore Nine podcast. “Occasionally, players who can have some value to other teams in trade talks are ones that have decent draft pedigree and physical attributes, measurables and just haven’t panned out in the NFL.

“What’s been Mike Tomlin’s phrase du jour this offseason? Change of scenery. He said Kenny Pickett wanted it. Justin Fields wanted it. So, sometimes that can help a guy too.

“I look at the Steelers’ D-line, kind of go down the list, DeMarvin Leal, third-rounder a couple years ago just has not panned out here through two seasons. A little bit injury-induced, but I think more so just hasn’t developed the way they want.”

Leal started four games during the first half of the 2023 season. But his playing time significantly decreased after Cameron Heyward returned from his injury.

Then over Pittsburgh’s final six games, including the playoffs, Leal was a healthy scratch five times.

The Steelers drafted Leal at No. 84 overall in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft. He posted 15 combined tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hits in 12 games last season. He also had 1 sack and 1 pass defense.

Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Put DeMarvin Leal on Notice

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said nothing about trading Leal this offseason when he addressed the 2022 third-round pick’s future during his post-season press conference. But Tomlin made it rather clear that the team isn’t exactly pleased with his development.

“There certainly is,” Tomlin answered on January 18 to a question about whether Leal could have a role with the team in 2024. “But he’s got to be a component of that.

“Obviously, we put helmets on guys that we think are best positioned to help us secure victory, and he hadn’t been a component of that, and so he’s got some work to do.”

Batko suggested Leal’s lack of success could be the result of a poor work ethic. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo wrote that Leal showed up to training camp out of shape last year.

“He has talent, but he doesn’t seem to have much urgency to develop,” add Fittipaldo.

What Could the Steelers Land in a DeMarvin Leal Trade?

Trading a draft bust like Leal sounds great on paper. But the fact of the matter is they don’t often have a ton of value on the trade market.

NFL teams could be interested in Leal because of his talent. Coming out of high school, he was a 5-star prospect and top recruit in Texas. But the Steelers are not likely to receive more than a late Day 3 selection for him in a trade this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Christopher Carter proposed the Steelers moving up on Day 3 of the draft through a pick exchange in a trade involving Leal.

Given how 2023 second-round pick Keeanu Benton developed as a rookie, Leal has become expendable in Pittsburgh, Therefore, even that low compensation could be worth the Steelers moving on from Leal.

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