2022 Steelers Season Recall: Steelers steal a WR and add DL on Day 2 of NFL Draft
Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers launched into day two of the 2022 NFL Draft having already snagged a potential Ben Roethlisberger replacement and quarterback of the future with Kenny Pickett in the first round.
With their second and third round picks on deck during the second day, it was time to find out what GM Kevin Colbert had up his sleeve during his final draft at the helm of the Steelers board. Turns out, both picks would be pretty good and perhaps have bright futures ahead of them.
With pick 52 overall, the Steelers would select George WR George Pickens. While ten other receivers were chosen ahead of Pickens, it would be Pittsburgh’s pick that would receive a ton of attention for falling down the draft boards.
The hype around Pickens was substantial, but the red flags are what saw him fall to 52. As SCU Managing Editor Tina Rivers wrote following the selection:
Pickens had some clouds hanging over him regarding his maturity and reactions that showed questionable discipline at times. Many fans feel that the Steelers organization has the experience in managing professionalism amongst their players and made an excellent choice once again in finding a hot receiving talent in the second round and later.
Also, Pickens’ ACL injury in Georgia’s spring game kept him on the sidelines for a majority of his final collegiate season. 8.5 months later, though, Pickens was back on the field for the Bulldogs’ final four games and ready for pro scouts.
At 6′-3″, 195, Pickens is an athletic outside receiver who posted 4.47 (40-yard dash) speed and has a vertical (34.5″) to create mismatches on the field.
Turns out, Pickens would tie for second-most catches among NFL rookie receives in 2022, with 72. That knotted him with Saints WR Chris Olave. Both would be nine catches behind New York Jets standout and Olave’s Ohio State teammate, Garrett Wilson, who were each taken in the first round of the draft.
Pittsburgh’s third round pick would add to the defensive side of the ball, as the team drafted Texas A&M DT DeMarvin Leal. Like Pickens, Leal was spoken of highly as a first round talent in some circles. The Steelers would snag Leal with the 84th overall selection. Tina also wrote about Leal:
A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Leal had been a top prospect with the potential to be special at the next level since he first stepped foot onto a football field deep in the heart of Texas. During his three years with the Aggies, Leal posted 59 solo tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, 133 total tackles and 13 sacks, as well as five passes deflected and two forced fumbles.
Leal would appear in 11 games for the Steelers in 2022, and out of necessity, dabble at playing some edge rusher with the absence of T.J. Watt after Week 1. Like Watt, Leal would also succumb to being placed on Injured Reserve in-season, but eventually would return.
He wouldn’t register a sack or QB hit in year one, but Leal’s paws batted down three passes in limited action.
The hope is that Leal then, and now, can continue to grow and be an eventual heir for Steelers long-time defensive captain Cameron Heyward, who turns 34 in May and has two more seasons remaining on his current contract. Should Leal grow into a similar role, fans will look back on day two of this draft as being a homerun for the franchise.