Batco: Keanu Benton could be the 'domino that allows the Steelers to move on from Cameron Heyward in 2025


If Keanu Benton is the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line, what about Cameron Heyward? That's probably the question the front office is trying to figure out. The 35-year-old Heyward is in the final year of his contract and entering his 14th NFL season. Does he have a future in the Black and Gold beyond the 2024 season? And what does that have to do with the second-year nose tackle?

“I think Keanu Benton is ready for his second year and he's going to be the domino effect. [Steelers] “You want to say, 'Hey, we've got another game-changing, ball-chasing, mobile, disruptive guy at defensive tackle, a guy we took in the second round a year ago,'” Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said yesterday on 93.7 The Fan.

In other words, Batko is speculating about the Steelers potentially releasing Cameron Heyward because they see Benton as a dynamic playmaker for the future of their defensive line. Of course, the Steelers would rather have more than one player. At one time, they had three: Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave. Think for a moment about how good that line was.

Hayward made it clear that he believes he still has some potential and wants a new contract. He also doesn't seem to think he'll be able to sign a new contract anytime soon. In fact, he didn't seem too confident a new contract would be in place before the season began. This is interesting considering that the other defensive linemen, except for Benton, have barely performed.

“If Cam has any impact at all, I don't think it's necessarily because of what he's done,” Batko said, “but the lack of what a lot of other guys have done, maybe. Benton could be a success story as early as September, but DeMarvin Leal, Isaiah Loudermilk … and Larry Ogunjobi probably aren't on that same upside.”

Benton showed a lot of potential as a rookie last season, but his impact was limited. He'll have to translate his skills and follow through on plays as a starter. Tuitt and even Hayward faced similar criticism early in their careers.

The problem is, without anyone else on the roster like Hayward, many are wondering if Hayward can still be Hayward. Now 35 and just returning from injury, he's at the point where even the best linemen start to fade.

There are few examples of defensive linemen over 35 who have played quality games for long periods of time. Few have had the opportunity to play that long, and even fewer are paid that much to do so. But Hayward doesn't want to hear that, and neither do I. To him, Benton is a complement, not a replacement.

And, of course, Hayward and Benton don't play the same position, and with the fact that the Warriors need more defensive linemen, it's unclear whether Benton will figure heavily in Hayward's future.



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