Though he’s only a rookie, second-rounder Keeanu Benton has caught the Pittsburgh Steelers’ attention. And not just the front office or coaching staff, that was obvious enough given the fact they made him the 49th overall pick, but from Benton’s new teammates, too.
In a 1v1 interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, veteran DL Larry Ogunjobi said Benton was the name who has jumped out to him the most during OTAs and minicamp.
“I’d say 95,” Ogunjobi told Matthews. “I think his skillset, what he’s able to do, how he moves, I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. I’m just really excited to watch him work. He has that explosion. He’s quick, he’s twitchy. I give him high praises but I just see it.”
“95,” of course, is the jersey Benton will wear for the Steelers this summer. While Ogunjobi seems impressed, Benton hasn’t quite earned the right to be called by name yet. There’s plenty of time for him to prove his mettle but as Ogunjobi says, reasons to be optimistic. Benton is the prototypical Steeler-build in a college game that’s getting harder and harder to find those guys. He’s a hair under 6’4 with nearly 34 inch arms and weighs in at 310 pounds.
While he’ll play nose tackle for Pittsburgh with a chief goal of stopping the run, he has a get-off and hand use to beat blocks and make plays, not just occupy space. As we noted throughout the pre-draft process, his athleticism is uncommon for someone with his frame and his ability to bend and turn the corner is rare. He showed those pass rush chops during the Senior Bowl, succeeding in his 1v1 rushes with a variety of moves.
Benton wouldn’t be the first big guy who can move. Ogunjobi doesn’t just see a skillset but he also sees a desire to put in the work to get better.
“I see a kid who wants to work, who wants to be great. He has a super high ceiling. If he hangs around the right guys, he’s gonna be good.”
Benton fits nicely into the classic Kevin Colbert “hearts and smarts” bucket, something that carried over into Omar Khan’s first draft class. At nose tackle, he should be able to earn playing time right away and make an immediate impact, similar to what Javon Hargrave did as a rookie, who started 13 games, recorded 27 tackles, five of them for a loss, with two sacks. Coming from a bigger school than Hargrave, who had to adjust to such a big jump in competition, in addition to a Steelers’ system that is more nose tackle friendly than it was in 2016, Benton could be even more productive out of the gate.