2023 NFL Draft
Steelers Draft Profile: Wisconsin DT Keeanu Benton Drawing Significant Interest from Mike Tomlin
MOBILE, Ala. — Wisconsin DT Keeanu Benton is looking to continue the legacy of productive Wisconsin defensive linemen that hop into the NFL with early success, and it could be with a focus on one specific team.
Early on in the process, the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken quite an interest in Benton, which assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin, Brian Flores, and Mike Tomlin all taking a liking to the 6-foot-3 big man. After Tomlin watched Benton closely on Tuesday, it was hard for Benton to not talk about the Steelers as a team that jumped out to him.
“I met with the Steelers head coach,” Benton said. “He’s pretty chill, and he was letting me know that I was on his radar. I guess he knew my defensive line coach, and told me to tell him he said hi, but I’ll be real, it was a surreal moment. I get to meet this guy who I had only seen on TV.”
So, the meeting seems to have left a mark on Benton. He came to Mobile to showcase himself as a pass rusher more than anything. In Jim Leonhard’s scheme, the defensive lineman was often not allowed to showcase themselves as pass rushers. But after a dominant first day at the Senior Bowl, Benton believes he illustrated what he can on the interior.
“I’m comfortable playing anywhere from a 0 to a 3-technique,” Benton said. “I came here to show what I can do as a pass rusher. In the scheme at Wisconsin, we often played run-first, so I feel like I have something to show teams there. I can really get after the quarterback for you.”
That tracks for Benton, who only registered 9 career sacks. But with a combination of a twitchy first step and powerful hands, Benton turned into a buzzsaw at the National team’s practice on Tuesday. He will look to keep up an especially strong week of work.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Measured at the Senior Bowl: 6-foot-3 4/8, 312 pounds, 33 6/8 inch arms, 9 7/8 inch hands, 81 6/8 wingspan
KEEANU BENTON SCOUTING REPORT
Benton’s a nose tackle that did primarily focus on stopping the run, but he terrorized opponents the moment he got to pin his ears back and go after the quarterback. A guy with true nose tackle potential, Benton sports a stout frame that is slightly undersized, but he makes up for it with fantastic length and burst. The cool thing about Benton is that in subpackages, he can easily slide out to 3-technique. Where does that leave him as a player?
He’s a versatile guy who can play on three-downs. That means a lot for most teams because those types of nose tackles are rare. If he keeps it up, there is a good chance that Benton slides into the second round.
HOW DOES HE FIT?
The Wisconsin scheme asks a lot of the same things that the Steelers do, so this is a good fir for Pittsburgh. It is not that hard to see why they are interested in him, either. They really do need a nose tackle that can slide out to a three-technique on three downs like Tyson Alulalu did at a high-level before his severe lower leg injury. Could Benton be that guy? I think he can be. So, expect him to fit into that mold.
WHERE WILL HE BE DRAFTED?
Benton’s draft stock profile is fascinating. As of now, he is projected to be a fourth-round pick, but I’ll bet that profile is a little bit too low on him. He is a true three-down lineman with wicked reps on tape. With his upside and rarity, expect Benton to slip into day two of the NFL Draft.