Keanu Neal, Strong Safety
University of Florida
6’00” 211 lbs.
- Size/Speed/Length Combo
- Devastating Hitter
- Playmaker – Looks to create turnovers
- Has athleticism to cover
- Fiery competitor
- Said to be character guy – interviewing well
- Plays recklessly leading to missed tackles
- Can get beat deep in coverage
- Can be taken out of a play by double teams
The word on Keanu Neal is that much like former Steelers strong safety, Troy Polamalu; off the field he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet but once he buckles that chinstrap you better have your head on a swivel. I haven’t included any highlights in my scouting reports so far, but this one is too good not to. When watching this, keep in mind that running back is 6’3″ 247 pound Derrick Henry.
There’s not many guys on the planet that are going to bring it to Henry like that. Neal is going to make running backs and receivers coming over the middle nervous. That kind of hitting power is also going to lead to some turnovers.
Neal’s reckless abandon playstyle is also going to lead to some frustrating whiffs on tackles in the open field. His aggressive style can also lead to him getting beat deep by biting on fakes or peeking into the backfield. While right now he’s not the most skilled cover safety, he does line up in a lot of single high looks, and has plenty of athleticism to possibly become a solid cover safety in time.
In short, Neal is raw, but he has a better physical skillset than any other safety in this draft. With the right coaching, Neal’s ceiling is probably the highest in the draft even if some other guys may be more ready to play right now.
How he Fits (or doesn’t) with the Steelers
The Steelers have had some rumored interest in Keanu Neal with their pick towards the end of round 1. That doesn’t surprise me. When you look at the Steelers’ draft history under Mike Tomlin, he loves guys that can run and hit; such as Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Shamarko Thomas, and Ryan Shazier. He’s also an underclassman from a power 5 conference. They also tend to like taking the top player at a given position, rather than a position that’s already had a run started. He checks all the boxes for a potential Steelers’ draft pick.
As far as fit in the scheme, I think that Neal is probably capable of being the in the box defender the Steelers are seeking, but I do wonder if him missing tackles could be a shaky situation with other guys already in the scheme doing the same. When I looked a t a guy like Jeremy Cash, I see a kid that can come in and make plays right away, and is a pretty safe pick but he’s probably not ever going to be a great all around safety. Neal on the other hand, is probably not as reliable but has a high ceiling, and could eventually become a pro bowl caliber guy that can do much more in defending the pass.
Draft Range Prediction
Late-1st to Early-2nd Round