Rookie Roster Impact: DL Keeanu Benton

The NFL Draft is the last major roster-building milestone of the offseason and will dictate much about who we see in a uniform come September. For every rookie who makes the 53-man roster, that means one veteran does not. It’s circle of life as far as professional sports goes—out with the old, in with the new.

This year, we’re going to take a look at each draft pick the Pittsburgh Steelers made and examine how they are likely to impact the 53-man roster. How likely are they to make the team, how will they dictate position numbers, whose roster spot are they likely to take? You get the idea.

The Steelers drafted seven players in 2023, including four in the first three rounds, as well as two picks in the seventh. Each of them has a chance to make the roster, certainly, and I think most would be surprised if any fewer than six were on the team.

Draft Pick Name: Keeanu Benton

Draft Slot: Second Round (49th overall)

Position: Defensive Line

Roster Outlook And Impact:

While many rated the defensive line high on the Steelers’ pre-draft list of needs, for most, it came at best at a distant third behind cornerback and offensive tackle. They addressed the defensive line, however, as soon as they got the first two positions sorted.

That came in the form of Keeanu Benton out of Wisconsin, who we identified all the way back in January as a prospect who would be a perfect fit for the Steelers. Now that he is in Pittsburgh, they intend to get the most out of him.

But where does he fit most immediately? Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said that he will start out at nose tackle, but that they view him as a player who could play up and down the line. In all fairness, however, I can’t recall the last defensive lineman they haven’t said they feel can play up and down the line. They even said that about Daniel McCullers.

But Benton is a good enough athlete that he really could potentially play any line position the Steelers typically execute. His most potent role, in my opinion, will be as a nickel defender. But now, how does he affect the depth chart?

Well, as I’ve put out there a couple times lately, we do have to consider the possibility that he ends up knocking Montravius Adams off the roster. If he can take over the starting nose tackle job right away—or if Breiden Fehoko can—then Adams becomes expendable.

His addition sharply increases the chances of the Steelers carrying seven defensive linemen in total, as well, no small fact. It ends any chances of the team re-signing Tyson Alualu or Chris Wormley as well, I would gather.

Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi are your starters, with DeMarvin Leal guaranteed a roster spot as well. After that, you have to look at who you have in the middle. Of Adams, Fehoko, and Armon Watts, how many of them make it? Watts is most capable of playing end, to his benefit, but we can’t forget about Isaiahh Loudermilk either. The trio previously named may be fighting it out for one, possibly two roster spots.

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