It’s been a nice ride for Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, but as the Steelers prepare to take the field Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns, it could be the final time that Keisel dons a Steelers jersey.
Even if the Steelers find a way to sneak into the playoffs, Sunday may be the last opportunity that the 12-year veteran plays in front of his home Heinz Field crowd.
That’s something that Keisel realizes and even though he wants to return for a 13th season, he knows it may not be something that is in the cards for the Steelers.
“It’s possible,” Keisel told the Tribune Review’s Mark Kaboly. “I feel like I can still play. We will see what happens. I try not to think about it too much because I am still here and still part of the team and still fighting with these guys. When the time comes, I will sit down with my family and decide what is best.”
If this the end for Keisel, it should be as the Steelers need to continue to get younger and cheaper on the defensive side of the ball. It was quite the ride for a guy who went from being the 242nd pick in the 2002 NFL Draft to becoming a face of one of the most historic franchises in all of sports.
A little known fact is that Keisel nearly left his first training camp because he was so overwhelmed as a seventh-round draft pick who had to make the transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense. The Steelers wanted Keisel at a certain weight so he could handle the snaps he was also getting as a defensive end in their sub-packages. Keisel feared that the extra bulk could compromise his play on special teams so he would slip a 10-pound weight into his shorts before weigh-ins.
He went from that to a guy that proved to be pretty dominant in the Steelers system. His athleticism nearly earned him a look at outside linebacker after 2006, his first season as a starter.
But things worked out very well for Keisel nonetheless.
He never put up huge numbers as 5.5 sacks and 63 tackles represent his career highs, but Keisel’s hustle and relentless work ethic won him over with coaches, teammates and fans alike.
The veteran has been battling a foot injury this season, but has been pretty durable throughout his career. Keep in mind that Keisel’s 140 career games played are 40th on the all-time Steelers list and over the past decade, only Ike Taylor (168), Larry Foote (154), James Farrior (154) and Ben Roethlisberger (142) have played in more games.
If Sunday is Keisel’s last game as a Steeler, he and his beard left quite the impression on the city of Pittsburgh, one that should not be forgotten for a long time.
But the NFL is a business and no one knows that better than Keisel as he has seen countless players come and go throughout his career.
Unfortunately for him, Keisel will likely be the next in line of veterans the Steelers will have to part ways with.