PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to start second-round pick Keeanu Benton at nose tackle, but think he has the upside to be more than that going forward.
Benton (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) split his time at Wisconsin between playing over the nose (659 snaps) and a three-technique, as a four-man front defensive tackle (553 snaps).
With the Steelers, he’ll start on the nose, where he and Braeden Fehoko will hope to replace Tyson Alualu in the center of the Steelers’ base defense. But the Steelers have a greater hopes for their second-round pick just playing on the nose.
“I think we’ll start him probably inside as a nose and see what he can do as a three-tech or a 4i for us,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. “He’s a big body but he’s not a two- down guy. So, he’ll have some chance to be a guy that can play on third-down and do some things in terms of penetrating and rushing and all those things. We’ll probably start him inside as a nose and let him grow into it and see what he does. But he’s not strictly that.”
Benton sees himself as a player that can play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line.
“I think I’ll fit in best between the zero and the three (technique),” he said. “I’m just grateful to have the opportunity. I think that they have a kind of similar set to us at Wisconsin, and I’m just happy to get it started.”
Benton had just nine sacks over his Wisconsin career, but six of those came last season. Austin thinks he has the potential to do more than he was given the opportunity to show with the Badgers.
“He’s a big, strong guy,” Austin said. “Really active. Good hands. For a big guy, you’ll see him venture outside the box chasing things down. He’s got a good motor. You can see he’s in really good shape. He plays a lot of snaps. Sometimes you’ll watch guys and they’re splitting snaps with other guys. He’s an 80 to 85 percent guy. So, he keeps himself in really good shape, really good competitive sphere, big strong guy. I like him.
“When you watch a guy that is explosive, he is heavy handed, he gets extension on guys, I think when you see those things and you see that he can roll his hips, I think [Karl] Dunbar and those guys do a great job of teaching guys rush plans and how to use their strengths to become a better rusher. I think he has some of the baseline abilities and that’s what we see, and we are counting on him to be a run stopper and get some bonus out of him with being a pass rusher.”