Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Week 1 of free agency
Round 2, Pick #49: Keeanu Benton, NT, Wisconsin (6’3”, 309)
The Steelers wisely locked up Larry Ogunjobi in free agency, signing him to a lucrative three-year deal. When healthy, Ogunjobi was a major contributor to the Steelers' run defense improvements. However, Pittsburgh has a severe depth problem on the defensive line. Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu are gone, leaving Ogunjobi, Cam Heyward, Montravius Adams, Demarvin Leal, and Isaiahh Loudermilk as the only remaining defensive linemen. Even though the Steelers don’t deploy their base 3-4 defense much, this team lacks a true impact starter at nose tackle.
Luckily, there is a surfeit of interior defensive line talent, especially at the nose tackle position, in the second round. The front office and coaching staff have displayed some interest in Siaki Ika from Baylor and Mazi Smith from Michigan. But the best fit for this team and their style of play is Keeanu Benton.
Benton is a lot like the Steelers' recent nose tackles (Tyson Alualu and Javon Hargrave) in that he can hold down the A-gaps, but he’s also quite the pass rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished second on the team in pressures (28) and sacks (6). Benton was one of the more impressive players at the Senior Bowl, and per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Mike Tomlin told him he was on the Steelers’ radar.
Benton would most likely not take over the starting nose tackle role from Montravius Adams immediately. But he would be a valuable rotational piece and injury insurance as he learns from the veterans until he is ready. Nevertheless, given his skills, it would not be surprising to see him earning more and more snaps every week and becoming a regular starter come December.