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2023 Draft Class Review – DT Keeanu Benton



Thanks to Chase Claypool, the Pittsburgh Steelers had two second-round draft picks in 2023, the second of which they used to add DT Keeanu Benton. The highest defensive lineman they’ve drafted since 2014, Benton impressed as a rookie and has Mike Tomlin fired up.

Drafted 49th overall out of Wisconsin, Benton was an immediate contributor. He played 29 snaps in his first NFL game, roughly his average for the entire season. In all, he played 484 defensive snaps and eventually took over the starting nose tackle role.

Statistically, Benton recorded 36 tackles, though he surprisingly lacked many “impact” statistics. While he did create two forced fumbles, he had just one sack and one tackle for loss. I fully expect those numbers to climb significantly moving forward. Even Javon Hargrave had just two sacks as a rookie—and in his second season as well.

Indeed, I see a lot of similarities between Benton and Hargrave, though Benton is a bit bigger, Hargrave more agile. As for Benton, he still has untapped potential because Wisconsin limited his usage. The Steelers spoke very openly about seeing more in him as a pass rusher from the Senior Bowl.

“Then we saw him at the Senior Bowl, and we saw the pass-rush ability. Him being able to go from the B gap to the A gap and win an edge and get across the face. We think that he has upside as a rusher”, assistant general manager Andy Weidl said of Benton after the draft. “If you need him to win as a rusher, he would. You saw snapshots of it, and we saw it at the Senior Bowl”.

And we saw that on the field in the regular season. While he only finished with one sack, he recorded eight quarterback hits, and he showed the ability to win. We’re talking about things like Pass Rush Win Rate here, but the point is, the foundation is there. He can build on what he’s already doing to finish the plays he creates for himself.

Benton is a complete player who is also more than capable of playing the run. He may not be the old school zero-technique, 350-pound nose tackle, but he works for today’s game. I have a feeling AFC North interior offensive linemen are going to start talking about how annoying he is to try to block in interviews.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are weeks away from the 2024 NFL Draft, which means it’s time to review last year’s class. The first under new general manager Omar Khan and assistant Andy Weidl, their class generally garnered favorable reviews. Of the seven players they drafted, notably, all of them remain with the team. Additionally, three of them are starters (arguably four) and five in total are significant contributors.


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