Connect with us

Steelers Transactions

Steelers Sign NT Keeanu Benton to Rookie Contract



Steelers NT Keeanu Benton

The Pittsburgh Steelers have officially agreed to terms with Keeanu Benton on a rookie contract, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The Steelers selected Benton out of Wisconsin with the 49th overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. While the exact details of Benton’s deal are not available, Over The Cap estimated the four year contract to be worth $7.3 million with a signing bonus of about $2.3 million. 

His contract includes some guaranteed money in the third year of his contract, according to Rapoport, which is a first for a player drafted at pick No. 49 or later. Issues regarding guaranteed money and the timing of payments of signing bonuses have become the primary sticking point between teams and rookie players since the latest CBA firmly capped the total amount rookies can make based on their draft slot.

Benton was the Steelers second selection of round two after the team drafted Joey Porter Jr. to open the round. Porter and first-round pick Broderick Jones remain unsigned.

RELATED: What’s the Holdup with Steelers Signing Top Three Draft Picks?

At Wisconsin, Benton appeared in 45 games and started 36 of them.  In 2022, Benton recorded 36 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors. Benton totaled 9 sacks through his four years at Wisconsin.

In Benton’s first season in Pittsburgh, the 6-foot-4 defensive linemen will share snaps with Braeden Fehoko on the interior of the line with the opportunity to earn greater responsibilities.

Benton’s specialty, at least in year one, will be stuffing the run. Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin mentioned that Benton will start strictly at the nose and develop as a three technique defensive linemen in the meantime. 

A noted strength of Benton’s is his avaliability. Most defensive linemen will split or share snaps due to needing a break from the action, but Austin said that Benton could end up as an “80 to 85 percent” type of player down the road for the Steelers. 

The Steelers have dealt with issues in regard to their run defense for the past couple of seasons so Benton will slot in as immediate help along with the newly-signed Breiden Fehoko in attempt to solve that issue. He spent the spring learning the nose tackle position, though defensive line coach Karl Dunbar said he believes Benton can do more than just be a nose tackle.