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Alex Highsmith seeing a big year from Keeanu Benton in 2024

Of all the Pittsburgh Steelers players who were selected in the highly touted 2023 NFL Draft class, there are several players who could be expected to make a big sophomore jump in their second year of their professional career. Among those players would be 2nd Round pick Keeanu Benton along the defensive line.

Benton is the injection of youth along an aging defensive line, and as the team gets into Phase III of their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) other players are taking notice of Benton’s progress heading into 2024. One of the people seeing the progress in Benton is none other than Alex Highsmith.

“We have seen a lot from him growth wise coming into his second year,” said Highsmith. “He is someone who came in and played a lot his rookie year and made an impact. Seeing him come in and make an impact is amazing for us. Him stepping up into a role his second year is going to be awesome for us. There are going to be a lot of guys stepping up and he is one.”

To be more specific, Highsmith sees Benton as being a quality depth piece, something the team has done a good job addressing this offseason in both free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft.

“I think every position we have a lot of depth,” said Highsmith. “They did a good job this offseason of getting a lot of guys who can play. Guys who can come in and be an impact player. We know if someone goes down, we have guys who can come in and make plays.”

For the Steelers defense, it is the beginning of them figuring out what kind of defense they’ll have this season. And as Highsmith put it, it’s just great to get back on the field and starting the process again.

“It feels awesome to be back out here, be with the guys,” said Highsmith. “It’s amazing. Football is in the air. I love being out here working with the guys, getting better every day. It’s been a good first week.

“So far OTAs have been really good. Just trying to build every day. We have a lot of new guys, so I am super grateful and thankful.”

Can Benton step up his game to the point where the team won’t need to rely on Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi to play a massive amount of snaps? That will be the true test for Benton’s progress, and could equate in the best Steelers defensive front possible to keep Heyward and Ogunjobi fresh and able to make plays in all facets.

The hope is Benton is just one of the 2023 draft class who is ready to shine in their second season. If that class, which has been compared to the 1974 draft class, steps up it could equate in big things for the Steelers in 2024. Be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the 2024 regular season.


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