When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to cut ties with linebacker James Harrison early in the offseason, and with nose tackle Casey Hampton currently not under contract, defensive end Brett Keisel has silently become the oldest defensive player on the roster at 34 years of age.
As Keisel heads into his 12th season with the Steelers, he was asked to talk Tuesday after practice about being the senior citizen on defense and how he\'s helping some of the younger defensive lineman on the roster make the transition to the 3-4 defense.
"It\'s weird to be the old guy on the block, but I\'m proud to still be here, and I feel it\'s my obligation to help these young guys the way the older guys helped me when I was young and dumb," said Keisel, whose beard seems to be already in regular season form.
"So just trying to teach them a little bit. They\'re coming from four-three\'s and they basically have to forget everything that they\'ve been taught through college and start fresh. And it\'s hard, because you\'re used to doing things one way, and you got to switch your stance up and what not, but they\'re doing it."
Being a mentor to the younger defensive players on the team is not a new role for Keisel, but it is a role that he not only embraces, but does well. He has been mentoring Ziggy Hood, Steven McLendon and Cameron Heyward for several seasons now and is currently trying to help Alameda Ta\'amu, Hebron Fangupo and rookie Nick Williams transition to the Steelers 3-4 defense.
When the Steelers drafted Keisel in the seventh-round of the 2002 NFL Draft out of BYU, he received the same type of mentoring from defensive linemen Aaron Smith and Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Many may have long forgotten it by now, but Keisel didn\'t become a starter until his fifth season in the league, so you can clearly see that the transitioning process for young Steelers defensive players takes some time.
Keisel might very well be pushing 35 years of age, but he is coming off of one of the best seasons of his long career. In addition to his consistent play last year, Keisel also managed to play in all 16 games for the first time since 2007, and the hope is that he can duplicate that in 2013.
Thanks to his beard, Keisel is one of the most recognizable Steelers players on the roster, but it his team-first attitude that should be the attribute that makes him stand out more than anything else to Steelers fans.