During the last seven seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has ranked number one in the league four times and second in the NFL once.
One of the common denominators during that time span was the fact that defensive end Brett Keisel had become a starter and a main cog on the Steelers defensive line.
However, as Keisel prepared to leave training camp at St. Vincent College, you have to wonder if the bearded one is doing so for the last time?
The Steelers have made no point to hide the fact that they are getting younger on both sides of the ball and Keisel is playing out the final year of his contract this season. There’s also the fact that Keisel at 34 is the oldest starter on the Steelers’ defense.
We saw it this offseason when Steelers’ general manager choose to part ways with long time fixtures of the defense in James Harrison and Casey Hampton.
If that’s the trend, you have to wonder if Keisel will be the next casualty after this season, especially if it doesn’t go the way the team hopes.
You can make the case either way.
Unlike aging veterans like Harrison and Hampton, Keisel has been very productive this late in his career, leading the team with 40 quarterback hurries last season. If he has another big season, you could make the case that the team should bring him back if Keisel were to take a hometown discount.
Considering the fact that the Steelers are the only organization that Keisel knows, it is a possibility. He’s worn the black and gold for the past 12 years. He’s had the same defensive line coach (John Mitchell) for all those years and he’s played in the same defense. Sometimes guys like that don’t want change.
But he is 34 and will eventually slow down and given the Steelers salary cap issues, it’s hard to re-sign everyone.
With former first-round pick Cameron Heyward looking like the heir apparent to Keisel, Colbert could simply elect to go with youth over a veteran that is eventually going to slow down one day.
Keisel is certainly one player worth keeping an eye on this season.
He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down just yet and if he has another good season, Colbert will be faced with another very tough personnel decision come the offseason.