Steelers scouting report: DT Keeanu Benton is versatile, but unspectacular

Steelers, Keeanu Benton
Steelers, Keeanu Benton / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

We weren't surprised to see the Pittsburgh Steelers select Keeanu Benton when he was available with the 49th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Benton comes from a Wisconsin defensive program that Mike Tomlin loves, and he offers a blend of traits that should make him a versatile and flexible addition to the interior defensive line.

Benton was just a three-star prospect and the 86th overall defensive tackle recruit coming out of Craig High School in Janesville Wisconsin in 2019, per 247 Sports. Benton is a player that Pittsburgh had their eye on throughout the pre-draft scouting trail, and he checks a lot of boxes in terms of what they look for on the defensive line. Here's my full Steelers scouting report on Keeanu Benton:


  • Quality blend of size and athletic traits at 6'3 5/8'' and 309 pounds
  • Impressive agility and bend for a big interior defender
  • Uses his nearly 34'' arms and powerful hands to his advantage
  • Plays with a solid base and short quick steps that allow him to change direction when needed
  • Has the ability to dig his heels in and hold his ground at the line of scrimmage
  • Lower body strength and leg drive to push the pocket
  • Great club move and decent overall hand placement on pass rush snaps


  • Not an elite run defender at this point in time; only flashes in this area
  • Can be a bit slow off the snap at times
  • Not violent in his play style, pass-rush wins are usually with bend and finesse
  • Can struggle to disengage from blocks too often
  • A solid blend of athletic traits, but doesn't always look like an athlete on film
  • Plays upright at times and needs to do a better job of maintaining his leverage
  • No real defining trait or niche in his game at this point
  • One-year-wonder in terms of production at Wisconsin
  • Well-rounded, but may have a limited ceiling

2022 Statistics:

  • 35 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2022
  • Finished 2nd in QB hits among the 2023 DT class, per PFF
  • 83.6 pass-rush grade, but just a 65.2 run-defense grade in 2022

Projected role for the Steelers:

Keeanu Benton moved along the interior Wisconsin defensive line and had a similar number of snaps rushing from the 'A' gap last year (190) as he did from the 'B' gap (233). Benton also lined up at 0-technique for the Badgers -- something he will be doing in Pittsburgh. The Steelers seem likely to use him as their nose tackle in base packages who can play 1-tech, 3-tech, or even '4i' in sub-packages. He projects as an eventual starter but may have a chance to win the job sooner rather than later due to the lack of competition at defensive tackle in Pittsburgh.

NFL player comparison: Maliek Collins

Though Keeanu Benton has a reputation as a run-stuffer, he's actually better at rushing the passer than he is at stopping the run. In fact, his run-stop win rate was in just the 10th percentile among interior defenders in 2022, per PFF. Maliek Collins is a very reasonable comparison due to his similar frame length, and athletic profile. Collins has had some quality NFL seasons but has never really put it all together to become anything more than a solid starter.

Bottom line: Keeanu Benton has the right combinations of size, length, and traits to start in the NFL for years, but average tape and explosiveness may limit his upside at the next level.

Next. Grading Steelers first-round draft picks in the Mike Tomlin era. dark