Keanu Neal
refer to caption
Neal with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016
No. 31 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Position:Safety
Personal information
Born: (1995-07-26) July 26, 1995 (age 28)
Webster, Florida, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:211 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school:South Sumter
(Bushnell, Florida)
College:Florida (2013–2015)
NFL Draft:2016 / Round: 1 / Pick: 17
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 16, 2023
Total tackles:523
Sacks:2.5
Forced fumbles:8
Fumble recoveries:5
Interceptions:4
Pass deflections:22
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Keanu Neal (born July 26, 1995) is an American football safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 17th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He played college football at Florida.

Early years

Neal attended South Sumter High School in Bushnell, Florida. He began playing as a linebacker before being switched to safety. As a junior, he tallied 151 tackles, 4 interceptions, one of which he returned 20 yards for a touchdown, as well as four forced fumbles, five pass deflections and one offensive touchdown as a goal-line fullback. He received All-conference and All-state honors.

As a senior, he had over 70 tackles and four interceptions. He committed to the University of Florida to play college football under head coach Will Muschamp.[1]

College career

As a true freshman in 2013, he appeared in all 12 games as a reserve player, focusing mostly on special teams. He collected five special teams tackles.[2]

As a sophomore in 2014, he played in 10 games with eight starts at safety. He was injured in the fifth game against the University of Georgia and was forced to miss the next 2 contests. He posted 45 tackles and three interceptions.[3] He had 10 tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery with a 45-yard return against the University of Alabama. He made 10 tackles against the University of Missouri. He had 8 tackles against East Carolina University.

As a junior in 2015, he started 11 of 12 games at safety under new head coach Jim McElwain.[4] He missed the first 2 contests of the season with an injury. He recorded 96 tackles (third on the team), 51 solo tackles (led the team), 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception and 2 sacks.[5] He has 14 tackles against the University of Tennessee and Louisiana State University. He declared for the 2016 NFL Draft at the end of the season.[6]

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
6 ft 0+12 in
(1.84 m)
211 lb
(96 kg)
32+34 in
(0.83 m)
10+58 in
(0.27 m)
4.62 s 1.62 s 2.69 s 4.20 s 7.09 s 38 in
(0.97 m)
11 ft 0 in
(3.35 m)
17 reps
All values from NFL Combine/Pro Day[7][8]

Atlanta Falcons

2016 season

Neal (right) covering Patrick DiMarco at Falcons training camp in 2016

Neal was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round (17th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft.[9] He was the second safety selected in 2016 behind West Virginia's Karl Joseph (12th overall).[10] On May 4, 2016, the Falcons signed Neal to a fully guaranteed four-year, $10.73 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $6 million.[11]

Throughout training camp, he competed for the job as the starting strong safety after it was left vacant due to the Falcons opting not to re-sign William Moore. He competed for the job against Kemal Ishmael and Charles Godfrey.[12] On August 25, 2016, Neal recorded five solo tackles before leaving the Falcons' 17–6 loss at the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter after sustaining an injury. Neal sustained a knee injury after receiving a stiff arm while attempting to tackle Dolphins' running back Arian Foster during a 17-yard reception. The injury required surgery and sidelined him for the first two regular season games.[13] Head coach Dan Quinn named Neal the starting strong safety to begin the regular season, alongside free safety Ricardo Allen.[14]

He made his professional regular season debut and first career start in the Falcons' Week 3 matchup at the New Orleans Saints and recorded four combined tackles and a pass deflection during their 45–32 victory. He made his first career tackle on the Saints' first offensive snap and tackled running back Mark Ingram II after a three-yard gain.[15][16] On October 23, 2016, Neal recorded a season-high 11 combined tackles (five solo) in and a pass deflection during a 26–24 loss at the Seattle Seahawks. In Week 10, he made a season-high nine solo tackles and broke up a pass in the Falcons' 24–15 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles. On December 18, 2016, Neal tied his season-high with 11 combined tackles (five solo) and had a season-high two pass deflections during their 41–13 victory against the San Francisco 49ers.[17] He finished his rookie season in 2016 with 105 total tackles (72 solo), nine passes defended, five forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery in 14 games and 14 starts.[18][19]

The Atlanta Falcons finished first in the National Football Conference (NFC) South with an 11–5 record, while also clinching the number 2 seed in the NFC, and a first round bye in the playoffs. On January 13, 2017, Neal started his first career playoff game and led both teams with 11 combined tackles (ten solo) during the Falcons' 36–20 win against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round.[20] The following week, the Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 44–21 in the NFC Championship. On February 6, 2017, Neal collected 13 combined tackles (nine solo) during the Falcons' 34–28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith was fired after the Falcons' defense experienced a fourth quarter collapse and let the Patriots come back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter.[21][22]

2017 season

New Falcons' defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel opted to retain Neal and Allen as the starting safety duo to begin the regular season. In Week 7, Neal recorded a season-high ten combined tackles (six solo) and deflected a pass during a 23–7 loss at the Patriots. In Week 9, he collected eight combined tackles and forced two fumbles in Atlanta's 20–17 loss at the Carolina Panthers. On December 24, 2016, he tied his season-high with ten combined tackles (eight solo) and a pass deflection in the Falcons' 23–13 loss at the Saints. The following week, Neal made five combined tackles, deflected a pass, and made his first career interception off a pass by quarterback Cam Newton during a 22–10 victory against the Panthers.[23]

He finished the 2017 season with 116 combined tackles (83 solo), six pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and an interception in 16 games and 16 starts.[24] He finished second in tackles for the Falcons, behind linebacker Deion Jones, and finished second in tackles among safeties behind Reshad Jones.

The Falcons finished third in the NFC South with a 10–6 record. They received a wild card spot, but were eliminated from the playoffs after being defeated 15–10 by the eventual Super Bowl LII Champions the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round. Neal recorded six combined tackles during their loss and had 14 combined total in both playoff games.[23] On January 22, 2018, Neal was named to his first Pro Bowl as a replacement for safety Malcolm Jenkins due to his participation in Super Bowl LII with the Eagles.[25]

2018 season

During the season opener against the Eagles, Neal left the game with a knee injury. He came back to the game only to leave the game again on a non-contact play.[26] The next day, it was confirmed that Neal tore his ACL, and would miss the remainder of the season.[27] He was placed on injured reserve on September 10, 2018.[28]

2019 season

On April 24, 2019, the Falcons exercised the fifth-year option on Neal's contract.[29] In third preseason game against the Washington Redskins, Neal dealt an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit against tight end Jordan Reed that ended Reed's season before it began.[30] Neal was fined $28,075 by the NFL for his hit on Reed.[31] Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, Neal suffered a torn Achilles tendon just before halftime, ending his season prematurely for the second year in a row.[32] He was placed on injured reserve on September 24, 2019.[33]

2020 season

In Week 7 against the Detroit Lions, Neal led the team with 11 tackles (10 solo) and sacked Matthew Stafford once during the 23–22 loss.[34] In Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Neal recorded his first interception of the season off a pass thrown by wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a trick play during the 17–14 loss.[35]

Dallas Cowboys

On April 14, 2021, Neal signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys, reuniting with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who was his head coach with the Falcons.[36] He was switched to weakside linebacker during organized team activities in May.[37] He appeared in 14 games with 5 starts, while missing 3 contests on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He registered 79 tackles (tied for third on the team), one sack and 2 special teams tackles. He had 13 tackles against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On April 6, 2022, Neal signed a one-year, $1.272 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, switching back to a more traditional role at strong safety.[38] He appeared in 17 games with 8 starts, after being thrust into action following Logan Ryan's foot injury in Week Four. He posted 63 tackles (2 for loss), a half sack, one interception and 4 passes defensed.

Pittsburgh Steelers

On April 4, 2023, Neal signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.[39] On November 18, the Steelers placed him on injured reserve.[40]

NFL career statistics

Regular season

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Cmb Solo Ast Sck TfL PD Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2016 ATL 14 14 106 72 34 0.0 2 8 0 0 0.0 0 0 5 1 0 0
2017 ATL 16 16 116 83 33 0.0 4 6 1 19 19.0 19 0 3 2 0 0
2018 ATL 1 1 2 1 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019 ATL 3 3 14 11 3 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2020 ATL 15 14 100 76 24 1.0 9 2 1 0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2021 DAL 14 5 72 44 28 1.0 4 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2022 TB 17 8 63 41 22 0.5 2 4 1 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2023 PIT 9 8 50 33 17 0.0 1 2 1 32 32.0 32 0 0 1 0 0
Career 89 69 523 361 162 2.5 22 22 4 51 12.8 32 0 8 5 0 0

Postseason

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Cmb Solo Ast Sck PD Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2016 ATL 3 3 30 24 6 0.0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017 ATL 2 2 14 11 3 0.0 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Career 5 5 44 35 9 0.0 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0

Personal life

Keanu Neal is named after actor Keanu Reeves.[41] His brother, Clinton Hart, played safety in the NFL.[42] Neal’s mentor is former Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. Neal keeps a signed Chancellor jersey in his locker to pay respect.[43]

References

  1. ^ "Chris Hays, The Prospector: Gators' commit Keanu Neal epitomizes the term All-American". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "Keanu Neal 2013 Game Log". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Keanu Neal 2014 Game Log". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  4. ^ "Florida Gators' Keanu Neal a possible first-round NFL draft pick". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on April 8, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "Keanu Neal 2015 Game Log". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  6. ^ "Florida Gators safety Keanu Neal declares for NFL draft". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  7. ^ "Keanu Neal Draft and Combine Prospect Profile". NFL.com. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  8. ^ "2016 NFL Draft Scout Keanu Neal College Football Profile". DraftScout.com. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  9. ^ "NFL draft: Results, analysis for every Round 1 pick". ESPN.com. April 29, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  10. ^ "2016 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  11. ^ "Spotrac.com: Keanu Neal contract". Spotrac.com. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  12. ^ Hirsh, Andrew (March 10, 2016). "Neal Impressing Falcons with Maturity". AtlantaFalcons.com. Archived from the original on May 26, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  13. ^ "Falcons' Keanu Neal: Out 3-4 weeks". CBSSports.com. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  14. ^ "Ourlads.com: Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart: 11/01/2016". Ourlads.com. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "NFL Game Center: Week 3-2016: Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints". NFL.com. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  16. ^ "Neal makes strong debut for Falcons". AJC.com. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  17. ^ "NFL Player stats: Keanu Neal (2016)". NFL.com. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  18. ^ "Keanu Neal 2016 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  19. ^ "Keanu Neal Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  20. ^ "NFL Game Center: Week 19-2016: Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons". NFL.com. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  21. ^ "2016 Atlanta Falcons Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  22. ^ "Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons - February 5th, 2017". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  23. ^ a b "NFL Player stats: Keanu Neal (2017)". NFL.com. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  24. ^ "NFL Player stats: Keanu Neal (career)". NFL.com. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  25. ^ McClure, Vaughn (January 22, 2018). "Falcons get another second-year player into Pro Bowl as Keanu Neal gets nod". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  26. ^ McFadden, Will (September 7, 2018). "Falcons announce Keanu Neal out for remainder of season with knee injury". AtlantaFalcons.com. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  27. ^ Patra, Kevin (September 7, 2018). "Falcons safety Keanu Neal out for season with torn ACL". NFL.com.
  28. ^ McFadden, Will (September 10, 2018). "Falcons place Keanu Neal on IR, sign Steven Means to active roster". AtlantaFalcons.com.
  29. ^ McFadden, Wil (April 24, 2019). "Falcons exercise fifth-year option on Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal". AtlantaFalcons.com.
  30. ^ Cadeaux, Ethan (August 23, 2019). "'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed". NBCSports.com. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  31. ^ Frank, Vincent (September 1, 2019). "NFL fines Falcons safety Keanu Neal $28K for unnecessary roughness". yardbreaker.com. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  32. ^ Walker, Patrik. "Falcons' Keanu Neal reportedly suffers torn Achilles in Week 3 loss to Colts". CBSSports.com. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  33. ^ McFadden, Will (September 24, 2019). "Falcons place Keanu Neal on IR, make several roster moves". AtlantaFalcons.com.
  34. ^ "Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons - October 25th, 2020". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  35. ^ "Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs - December 27th, 2020". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  36. ^ Eatman, Nick (April 14, 2021). "Expected to Play LB, Keanu Neal Officially Signs". DallasCowboys.com. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  37. ^ "Keanu Neal switching from safety to WLB with Cowboys". NFL.com. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  38. ^ Smith, Scott (April 6, 2022). "Bucs Bring Keanu Neal Back to Original Division and Position". Buccaneers.com.
  39. ^ "Steelers sign Fehoko, Neal". Steelers.com. April 4, 2023.
  40. ^ Varley, Teresa (November 18, 2023). "Steelers make roster moves ahead of Sunday's game". Steelers.com. Retrieved November 21, 2023.
  41. ^ Chris Kirschner (February 27, 2016). "Florida's Keanu Neal named after Matrix actor Keanu Reeves". seccountry.com.
  42. ^ "Florida recruit Keanu Neal learned from older brother's unusual career". Tampa Bay Times.
  43. ^ "Keanu Neal refuses to take down signed Kam Chancellor jersey". 247sports.com. January 10, 2017.