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Promising Steelers Rookie DT Keeanu Benton Blowing Minds in Rookie Season



Steelers Keeanu Benton
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Keeanu Benton (95) celebrates after sacking Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

PITTSBURGH — The entire 2023 Steelers rookie class looks like a class to remember for Pittsburgh. But out of all of the players, who is the most impressive? It might be hard to nail it down, but there is a good argument that Keeanu Benton is the leader in the clubhouse. The rookie had to step in the moment that Cam Heyward, and Benton have earned snaps in spades. Now, he is getting the opportunity to fill in for Montravius Adams.

On Sunday, no one played more snaps along the interior of the defensive line than Benton. It’s another step in the process that proves Pittsburgh is gaining more trust in one of their young standouts. Mike Tomlin had a ton of praise for Benton on Tuesday, and for good reason. Benton showed out like a trusted veteran and created havoc all Sunday in their 23-19 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Steelers DL Keeanu Benton

Steelers DL Keeanu Benton against the Baltimore Ravens, Oct. 8, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“He’s come on like gangbusters every week,” Tomlin said of Benton. “He’s getting better. You can’t deny that. It’s an awesome thing because we need it.”

Throughout the season, coaches have routinely praised Benton, but now that the Steelers have given him the keys to the kingdom, he has only shown out more in the reps he gets. Benton consistently played a ton of reps at Wisconsin, but his role is vastly different.

At Wisconsin, Benton was asked to primarily defend the run, reading blocks and deconstructing double teams, but he had the body, frame, and athleticism to take that leap as a pass rusher. He has done that already and is playing at more than just nose tackle. He feels like the game is now slowing down for him, though.

“The game is just getting slower,” Benton said. “I mean, I came into this game, and even in the preseason game, I was like, ‘woah.’ But now, everything is easier to read. I can really play how I want to now.”

Benton’s got his fastball down. It’s a chop-swim combination that works for him. But he has other moves in that bag, too. I still would like to see him develop more consistency in his plan, and his pad level can swell at times, but not nearly as much as it did at Wisconsin. Benton, not Cam Heyward, is their best defensive lineman.