3. Keeanu Benton
As a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, especially in an NFL where Nickel is the new Base, Keeanu Benton may not earn the requisite playing time to be considered for this award. He’s a solid pass rusher for the position but still needs development there, and the scheme is not favorable for him. Plus, an interior defensive lineman has not won the award since Aaron Donald in 2014, and only three have won in the last 25 years.
Benton will need to beat out veterans Montravius Adams and Breiden Fehoko for the starting nose tackle job. While Adams has performed well in limited action for Pittsburgh, he and Fehoko are still journeymen.
Benton has great upside and should earn plenty of one-on-one opportunities playing next to Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Alex Highsmith. If he can take advantage of those opportunities, he has an outside shot at taking home the award.