Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel knows all about having to wait a while in order to contribute as a full-time player, as he didn\'t start his first game until his fourth year in the league. With Cameron Heyward now entering his third year with the Steelers, Keisel was asked Thursday what he thinks the Ohio State product needs to do in order to be more of a contributor on defense in 2013.
"Just take that next step," said Keisel. "Our style of defense is all about consistency, going out and playing consistent week in and week out, and as a young guy that\'s hard to do. Cam\'s been here three years; he knows the defense now. It\'s just making that next step of being a very consistent day in and day out player."
So is year three the magic year for defensive linemen? Keisel thinks it is.
"Yeah, we always say that the third year is the year where everything should start to come together, and he\'s there. So, it\'s just doing it. He can do it."
While Heyward might not necessarily begin the season as a starter, the Steelers are probably hoping he can overtake Keisel on the right side at some point during the season. At the very least, Heyward should expect to play a lot more than the 267 snaps he played last year as the team will undoubtedly try to save some wear and tear on Keisel, who is entering the final year of his contract and perhaps even the final year of his career.
On the other side of the defensive line is Ziggy Hood, who like Keisel is entering the final year of his current contract. Keisel was asked to give his thoughts on the fifth-year player.
"Ziggy\'s playing good," Keisel said. "We expect the same from him. This is his fifth year, and I want to see some more splash plays from Ziggy Hood. Some more fumbles and things like that, but he\'s a very productive guy - reliable guy - I think he played in every game last year. It\'s hard to do in this business, and he\'s a tough kid."