The real test will come in about five weeks at Saint Vincent College when the pads come on, but thus far, Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar likes what’s he’s seen from rookie defensive tackle Keeanu Benton.
“He’s doing a great job,” Dunbar said. “He hit the ground running when he got here after the draft for rookie minicamp. He’s a smart kid. He’s a big athletic, mobile kid. So, I’m really happy with what we got.”
Dunbar confirmed to Steelers Now’s Alan Saunders that Benton has been working exclusively at nose tackle.
“That’s all, just the nose,” Dunbar said. “And he works over the guards when we go to our (sub-packages), but he’s working at nose tackle. That’s where we are looking to put him, but he’s athletic enough to play the 4i or the 3-technique. But we’re going to work him in at nose because he’s 6-3 1/2, 315 (pounds), just as big as Cam (Heyward) and Larry (Ogunjobi). If we get those three big suckers on the field, we’re going to be OK.”
Benton is a Wisconsin product, so he shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the Steelers’ defensive schematics, as the Badgers run a similar defense. T.J. Watt said during OTAs that “it’s basically just plug in the defense into Rosetta Stone and figure out the translation for this defense.” For this reason, Dunbar thinks Benton is ahead of a typical rookie in the maturation process. Dunbar also has a connection to Benton’s defensive line coach at Wisconsin.
“I think he is,” Dunbar said of Benton being ahead of the learning curve. “Because, it’s kind of funny, his D-line coach (at Wisconsin), I coached in Minnesota. His D-line coach knows me and he’s learned a lot of stuff that we do here in college. Ross Kolodziej was his D-line coach, so it seems like a perfect fit.”
It’s tough to fully evaluate players without the pads on, but Dunbar really likes Benton’s mobility.
“We haven’t put the pads on, but he runs well. He moves well,” Dunbar said. “And when you see a big guy who moves well, your eyes pop open. And you hope the movement doesn’t change once we put pads on. And, you know, I have no reason to think he would because he did a great job in college.”
Larry Ogunjobi called Benton “a dancing bear,” a statement that Dunbar fully agrees with.
“Yes, he is. Yes, he is. Because he has some heavy hands and understands how to use his body,” Dunbar said. “He has a wrestling background, so he understands how to torque his body and how to torque people. I just love to see it.”