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2023 Steelers Exit Interviews: DeMarvin Leal and Armon Watts

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2024.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, and the fact I have done these articles in the past, we thought we would do the same here at Steel Curtain Network. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies and those heading into free agency, we will attempt to do the same to some degree. To start, we will pair the most recent draftees with another player at the same position (if possible) as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up are defensive linemen DeMarvin Leal and Armon Watts.

DeMarvin Leal

Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Defensive Lineman
Years with the Steelers: 2
Years in the NFL: 2
Contract Status: Signed through 2025
Contract Details: $1,414,608 salary cap hit for 2024. Would cost the Steelers $476,144 in dead money if released and save $938,464.
Games played in 2023: 12 regular season
Games started in 2023: 4 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 206 (defense), 23 (special teams)
PFF score: 47.5 (DNQ for ranking)
Notable stats: During the regular season, Leal had 15 tackles, 1.0 sack, and one pass defensed.

Notes: After a rookie season which saw Leal getting snaps both at defensive line and occasionally on the edge, his second season saw him focus on the interior as he started the next three games after Cam Heyward was placed on IR. After missing Week 5 with a concussion, Leal returned in Week 6 and started in Week 7. But after Week 8, Leal saw his snaps drop to only 3–5 per game until he was inactive in Week 14. Playing nine snaps the following Week against the Colts, Leal was inactive the rest of the season including the playoffs. It’s quite disheartening to see a player stepped back this amount in the second season after being selected in the third round, so exactly what the Steelers have in mind for Leal moving forward is speculation. Once a promising defensive line prospect, Leal may be fighting just to make the team in 2024.

Armon Watts

Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Defensive Lineman
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 5
Contract Status: Free Agent
Contract Details: Contract expiring with no dead money
Games played in 2023: 15 regular season
Games started in 2023: 0 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 273 (offense), 21 (special teams)
PFF score: 77.3 (17th of 130)
Notable stats: During the regular season, Watts had 15 tackles and 0.5 sascks.

Notes: Believe it or not, but Armon Watts was the Steelers best defensive lineman in 2024 according to PFF. Inactive the first week of the season, Watts got a helmet and increased playing time due to Cam Heyward’s injury. Playing for the Steelers on a veteran salary benefit contract last season, if Watts is interested in the same deal the Steelers should jump at the chance if nothing more than for quality depth. But if Watts is looking to get a bigger role in a rotation or even crack the starting lineup, he may find his services are called on elsewhere.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Broderick Jones & Chuks Okorafor
Joey Porter Jr. & Levi Wallace
Keeanu Benton & Montravius Adams
Darnell Washington & Rodney Williams
Nick Herbig & Markus Golden
Cory Trice Jr. & James Pierre
Spencer Anderson & Dylan Cook
Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin


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