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Steelers DL Keeanu Benton Turning Heads in Fantastic Rookie Year



Steelers DL Keeanu Benton
Steelers DL Keeanu Benton against the Cleveland Browns, Nov. 19, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are looking at an impressive 2023 rookie class already. They have received fantastic returns from Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Darnell Washington, and Nick Herbig. But Keeanu Benton might just have them all beat with how well he plays. The rookie defensive tackle has leaped throughout the season to become one of the best young rookies in the NFL. As an interior player, he has taken a step up and is becoming a star.

The Steelers see it, too. A week ago, Cam Heyward admitted he never gave him enough credit for doing what he had done as a rookie. It’s not hard to see. Most guys do not play as a rookie as much as Benton has and have this much success. But Benton is only getting better.

Steelers NT Keeanu Benton

Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Keeanu Benton against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 18, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“I don’t give that kid enough credit,” Heyward said. “He’s come on big for us. Losing Montravius, myself… We needed guys to step up. I thought he did an amazing job. He plays with good leverage, good hands, gets off blocks, and gets after the qb too. I love the way he runs after the ball. That’s one thing that I was taught here when I first got here, and he’s emulating that every single time.”

But he is not the only player stunned at what Keeanu Benton is doing. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin believes that Benton will become a force in the NFL. He is on track to play more as the season progresses because of his growing skillset and comfortability in the defense. That should only give him more opportunities to play at a high level.

“A lot of potential, a lot of growth, and I love what I see from the young guy. He just continues to get better. I can’t say enough about him. I’m glad we got him, and I think he’s going to be a real force in that middle four for a while,” Austin said.

Getting praise like that is not new for Benton and should not stop coming. He will likely see that productivity increase next year, but could even see it round out to end this season. So far, he is their healthiest and most consistent defensive tackle. For a second-round pick, that is a massive hit.