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Steelers Analysis

Film Room: Steelers DT Keeanu Benton Wrecks Buccaneers



Steelers NT Keeanu Benton

Keeanu Benton, in his first game as a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman, played about as well as he could have against the Buccaneers. Those were my thoughts on the first watch, and the film only backs up the notion that Benton was an absolute game-wrecker on Friday night.

Two things became a theme from Keeanu Benton on Friday. His explosive get-off and a devastating swim move that he used all night. Tampa Bay is trying to run a mid-zone run here and the center is trying to wrap around Benton and seal him off. However, Benton does a great job to get the center, who popped up and is overextending off-balance by swatting down his hands. That chop-swim combination allows Benton to knife through to make the tackle. The two elements of this play are twofold. One, Benton recognizes the reach block. Second, he organizes a plan of attack and destroys it in tandem with his quick first step to make a play.

If you want to see an even higher-level play from the one above, this is it. This reach block on this outside zone run is absolutely nuked by Benton. This time he fires off the ball with great pad level and uses his speed-to-power conversion to throw the guard to the wayside. Benton crosses the face of the guard with relative ease as a result of those traits. His traits are all there as a new-age nose tackle that can become a sub-package play. It is his heavy hands that really flash that ability to take his game to the next level. Not many guys can destroy a reach block like this, let alone as a rookie.

These three plays are all in a set of four downs that would end in a Buccaneers turnover on downs. The first play follows much of what we have been talking about with his zone-run defense. Tampa Bay tries to reach block Benton, but he deciphers that right away and wrecks the front side blocks with a swim move so the play does not flow to the outside. This is all about hand usage and recognition. Benton is an athlete that plays with reckless abandonment at times, but his processing and eyes on these zone runs last night were solid.

The pass rush rep is an entirely different story. His chop-swim combination is a nasty combination that he put all over his tape at Wisconsin. There is some serious pass rush potential that Benton has that is not unlocked. But what I love about this rush, in particular, is that he used his length to his advantage. He gets his hands on the punch first and swats it away. The swim finishes it all. Benton’s got a bag that needs to deepen, but he has a fastball. It’s this move.

The last play is all about pad level, leg drive, and speed-to-power conversion. On fourth-and-one, you’re really looking to destroy that play any way you can, and it is yet another outside zone run. But Benton is explosive off the ball, comes in with a bull rush, and works up through the pads of the lineman. It would be nice to see Benton keeps his balance in the future, but Isaiahh Loudermilk’s impressive push really is what trips him up. Benton wrecks this play from the outset, though.

Benton’s debut was as advertised. He balled out and looked like a guy who can start as a nose tackle and be the backup sub-package 3-technique if they ask him to do that. Color me intrigued that Benton could be a guy that continues to ascend throughout the season.

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