He said: "He is the captain and a top-class player. He feels he must be there when we need him.
Gerrard has netted 12 goals already this term, 11 in his last 14 games, and if Liverpool are to get anywhere near their unlikely dream of the league title, it is their captain who they will depend upon most.
Benitez added: "Steven always feels that he must be the player to win it, to take that responsibility.
Against Derby, Benitez asked Xabi Alonso to be the holding player and gave Gerrard the license to lead the charge when all seemed lost.
Derby may be bottom, but their fighting spirit caused Liverpool plenty of problems.
Benitez added: "Gerrard is that type of player, more than just box-to-box, and we gave him the chance to go forward and you always felt he could produce something.
"He needed the freedom to hunt out that killer goal. It is something we must learn to do more often."