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2023 NFL Draft

Mike Tomlin Wants ‘Goons’ Like Keeanu Benton



Steelers Mike Tomlin

PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Steelers were scouting Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, head coach Mike Tomlin told Benton that he was looking for some “goons” to add to his defense.

Benton feels like he fits the bill.

“Talking to Coach Tomlin, the main thing I had taken away from that was that he wants goons out there and he wants somebody to come out there who’s not afraid to get their nose dirty and I feel like I am that best option for that guy,” Benton said in his post-draft-pick conference call with the Pittsburgh media, after which he earned a slight admonishment from his new head coach.

“That’s an accurate description, but I’ll give him some media training so he can keep some of our private conversations private,” Tomlin said in his post-draft press conference.

In an appearance with former Steelers tackle Willie Colon on Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio Morning Men on Wednesday, Tomlin was asked to clarify what he means when he says he wants a goon, and he said Colon was a good fit for the mold.

“A better person to define goon is sitting there with you,” Tomlin said. “[Colon] really shaped my perspective on what appropriate gooning is. To be bluntly honest, this dude played with an edge. He could be characterized as a mean person on the football field. But always in control, always calculated, always smart. I think that’s the gist of what I’m talking about.

“We have to play with a certain collective demeanor. But we’ve also got to play and play to win and that means not beating yourself. So that means bringing a certain level of intellect to the physicality. That’s something that Willie mastered. You guys know he’s a sharp guy. He conducts business with you guys every day and does it at a very high level, but to be able to do those things and play the game with a certain edge, a certain demeanor, is things that we covet.”

So when says he wants a goon, he’s saying he wants player that will be physical and come up to the edge on the playing field, but not one that will hurt his team. If he sees that in Benton, that could go a long way toward explaining why the Steelers sought him out in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.