If there’s one guy at this year’s Senior Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans should get familiar with, it’s Wisconsin DL Keeanu Benton. With ideal size to play in the Steelers’ system, he had a strong showing in Mobile and appears to be squarely on Pittsburgh’s radar. Though we rarely hear much from the front office on specific players, Steelers’ scout Ike Taylor gave his thoughts on Benton’s play during the latest Bleav In Steelers podcast, hosted by Mark Bergin.
“Keeanu, from my perspective, just dominated,” Taylor said on the show. “Being consistent and dominating. For a guy to be that big and that agile was very impressive. That’s a lot of things you can’t coach. That’s just God given talent. Keanu had to work on that and not be lazy on his ability. And for him, there is no limit, ain’t no ceiling for him. So Keeanu just dominated.”
Taylor was in attendance for this week’s Senior Bowl, joining the organization as a scout earlier this year. His primary focus is on defensive backs but it was impossible to ignore Benton’s play. Showing power, leverage, and quickness to win 1v1 matchups. Assuming he plays, Benton will look to carry that performance over to this afternoon’s game, though it’s one most of the Steelers’ staff won’t see in-person. A large chunk if not the entire staff has already gone home. Mike Tomlin appeared leave after Wednesday’s practice while assistant GM Andy Weidl and at least a couple of scouts flew out Friday morning. But they needed all they needed to see from a guy like Benton, who Taylor praised for being more than just a strong run plugger.
“The short amount of space between the center and the guards, how much they can work with, it’s little to nothing. So for him to have a box full of tools to be able to maneuver. Bull rush, spin, get skinny. What I mean by get skinny is turn side and make sure you don’t give the offensive guard or tackle or center your whole body was very, very impressive. A quick first step was very impressive. So when I saw that from Keeanu, I was like man, this dude is special. Then you just keep hearing his name coming up over and over and over and over and over.”
It’s a name probably being said quite a bit by the Steelers’ organization. Simply finding the right body type for a defensive lineman, especially a 3-tech/4i (inside shade of the offensive tackle) is difficult to do. Most guys are smaller and stubbier. Ideally, a Steelers’ defensive lineman is 6’4-6’5, 300+ pounds, with 33+ inch arms. Benton checks most of those boxes. Though he’s a hair under 6’4, he’s 312 pounds with nearly 34 inch arms.
His tape is impressive and as Taylor said, Benton shows a quick first step and surprising bend and flexibility for his size and position. During one particular 1v1 drill during practice this week, he quickly swam over the center to immediately win the rep. Benton isn’t a perfect prospect, needing to be more consistent with his leverage and he’s not going to be a dominant, high-impact pass rusher, but he has more than enough juice to justify using him in sub-packages and on passing downs.
Couple that with the pro-style defense and quality coaching he received at Wisconsin and his mental toughness, playing hurt and gutting out games during his Badgers’ career, he seems to be squarely on the Steelers’ radar. As of now, he’s most likely a Day Two pick the team could consider at either #32 or #49.
Check out our full report on Benton below.