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Keeanu Benton Welcomes High Expectations From Steelers

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Pittsburgh Steelers DT Keeanu Benton

PITTSBURGH — During his season-ending press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin declared that he expects second-year defensive tackle Keeanu Benton to be “dominant sooner rather than later.”

That comment speaks volumes, as Tomlin rarely gives a statement like that about young players.

“It’s interesting, I just had an exit interview with him,” Tomlin said. “I’m really excited about the prospects of his future. He’s really talented. I think he’s capable of being dominant sooner rather than later. And so, the question is how quickly can we make that happen and what are our roles in doing so. And so, we just had a real good conversation about what that looks like foundationally and how do we build.”

At OTAs on Tuesday, Benton was asked about the high expectations heading into Year 2. It’s something that the Wisconsin product welcomes. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I expect it out of myself as well,” Benton said. “You can’t stay the same and expect to succeed in this league. That’s a point that Coach [Tomlin] stressed.”

Steelers NT Keeanu Benton

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

In 17 games (nine starts) last season, Benton recorded 36 total tackles, 16 of which were solos, one sack, eight quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, two forced fumbles and two passes defended. Benton was lined up mostly at nose tackle in his rookie season. It’s expected he’ll play at nose again this season.

Cam Heyward admitted he never gave Benton enough credit for doing what he had done as a rookie.

“I don’t give that kid enough credit,” Heyward said last December. “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.”

Benton wants to take a leap this season not only as a player but as a leader, as well.

“Making sure that I’m being vocal, being heard,” Benton said. “And taking that next step as a player and as a leader.

Nick Farabaugh contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.