The Steelers selected defensive lineman Keeanu Benton from Wisconsin in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the 49th overall pick.
Benton was an All-Big Ten third team selection by the coaches in 2022. He played in 12 games, starting all of them. He finished the season with 36 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and four and a half sacks.
"Big strong guy. Really active. Good hands," said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. "For a big guy you will see him venture outside the box, chasing things down. He's got a good motor. You can see he's in really good shape when he plays. He plays a lot of snaps. He is an 80-85% guy. He keeps himself in really good shape, really competitive spirit.
"I got a good chance to see him. Evaluating film. He came in here for a visit. Wonderful guy. He seems like he has his stuff together. All the background stuff we seem to be looking at and looking for, he passed those tests."
Benton, who will join fellow Wisconsin players T.J. Watt, Isaiahh Loudermilk and Scott Nelson on the Steelers roster, made a pre-draft visit to the Steelers and felt good about his chances of ending up in black and gold.
"I did have a little bit of an idea," said Benton. "I feel like it was a place for me and a place I felt comfortable.
"I think it's a place I can develop my game. I am not sure where they want me to play yet, but I am ready to take off with an NFL career."
Benton said being drafted by the Steelers is the realization of a dream he always had to play in the NFL.
"It's awesome," said Benton. "I feel like it's something that I have been waiting on my whole life to be an NFL player. The Steelers have been a good team since I have known about football. I am happy and blessed to be here."
Honors and Awards
2022: All-Big Ten third team (coaches)
2022 Preseason: Fourth-team All-America (Phil Steele)
2021: All-Big Ten second team (coaches), All-Big Ten honorable mention (media)
2020: Academic All-Big Ten
2022 Season: Played and started all 12 regular season games … made 36 tackles, 10.0 TFLs and 4.5 sacks … totaled five tackles, three solo, at Ohio State (9/24) … recorded two sacks vs. Illinois (10/1) … made four tackles and recorded a sack vs. Maryland (11/5) … logged another sack, and four solo tackles, at Nebraska (11/19) … totaled 7.0 TFLs over the season's final four games
2021 Season: Earned third letter, starting all 13 games at nose tackle ... recorded 25 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks ... also forced two fumbles and broke up two passes ... had a career-high 6 tackles with 2.0 sacks at Minnesota ... recorded 3 tackles and a TFL in win at Purdue
2020 Season: Earned second letter, playing in 7 games with 5 starts at nose tackle ... recorded 9 tackles and forced two fumbles ... had a season-high 4 tackles and a forced fumble in the season opener vs. Illinois
2019 Season: Earned first letter, playing in 13 games with 6 starts at nose tackle ... recorded 12 tackles, including 4.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks ... logged 2 quarterback hurries ... made Badgers debut in season opener vs. South Florida on Aug. 30, recording 2 tackles and 1.0 TFL ... had 1.0 TFL in first start vs. Central Michigan on Sept. 7 ... logged career-high 3 tackles and first career sack at Ohio State on Oct. 26 ... recorded 1.0 sack vs. Ohio State in Big Ten Football Championship Game on Dec. 7
High School: Three-star recruit by 247 Sports, ESPN and Rivals … first-team all-state by Associated Press as a senior ... all-region and All-Big Eight Conference as a senior ... named Janesville Gazette All-Area Player of the Year ... finished senior season with 75 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery ... two-time state qualifier in wrestling, finishing as Division 1 runner-up at 285 pounds as a junior with a 48-2 record ... coach was Adam Bunderson
Personal: Parents are La'Tasha Benton and Troy Rodriguez