The Steelers front office stated their sincere belief during their draft week press conference that they entered the 2023 NFL Draft without any glaring needs, after a free agency period that could only be viewed as a smashing success, but they do still have needs nonetheless.
Those universally accepted needs included upgrades at OT, CB, and DL. Plus improved depth at multiple positions. Three selections in, and I wouldn't hesitate to say mission accomplished thus far.
The Steelers addressed the first two areas of need with their first two selections, and then focused on adding some much needed talent and youth to their aging defensive line with their second selection of the second round.
I have been given the distinguished task of trying to apply a letter grade to each Steelers selection.
There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal the validity of any grade given, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Wisconsin DL Keeanu Benton with the 49th selection of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Keeanu Benton is a powerful interior defensive lineman with solid length, standing 6'4" and 311 lbs. Most draft evaluations list him as a nose tackle, but he lacks the girth and anchor of an old school 3-4 nose. He appears to be a much better example of the modern day interior lineman that the Steelers have been mascarading as nose tackles in their base defense in recent seasons. Think a younger Tyson Alualu.
That being said, I believe that Benton could potentially emulate some of Cameron Heyward's tendencies when he is working on the interior. Heyward has relied on his almost superhuman strength to dominate in the trenches more and more in recent seasons, as his quickness slowly fades. Benton possesses the strength and power necessary to displace blockers, but struggles to capitalize on any advantage gained. That's where Heyward's tutelage could prove invaluable.
Benton's stock skyrocketed during his practice sessions at the Senior Bowl. Benton impressed the coaches and scouts in attendance during the individual and one on one drills, which proved invaluable for a lunch pail type defender who isn't going to wow anyone with his Combine numbers. To get a true assessment of Benton's abilities, watch his game film and those Senior Bowl practices. His determination and consistent motor are impressive, traits that the Steelers have been targeting this offseason.
Based on the criteria mentioned earlier in this article, I give the Steelers second round selection of Keeanu Benton an initial draft grade of B+.
The defensive line was a bigger area of need for the Steelers than many casual observers realized. Heyward isn't getting any younger, Ogunjobi seemingly wakes up everyday with a new nagging injury, Montravius Adams is a journeyman depth piece at best, Isaiahh Loudermilk leaves us all wondering "Why?", and the two new free agent signings are situational rotational depth pieces. Benton's talent and youth will be a breath of fresh air.
Now we want to hear from the BTSC community and from Steelers Nation. What do you think about the selection and what initial grade would you give it. Please place your vote in the attached poll and share your reasoning in the comment section below.
I am pleased to welcome Keeanu Benton to the Steelers family on behalf of the BTSC staff and community. Go, Steelers!
What initial draft grade would you give the Steelers second round selection of Keeanu Benton?
This poll is closed
A = Excellent selection
B = Solid selection
C = Average selection
D = Below average selection
F = Terrible selection