The Pittsburgh Steelers will close out their 2013 regular season at home Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and if the team fails to qualify for the playoffs, it very well could be the last game that veteran defensive end Brett Keisel plays if the team decides not to bring him back in 2014.
"It's possible," Keisel told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about Sunday possibly being the end of the line for him. "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."
Keisel was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh-round of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Brigham Young, but he did not become a starter until 2006. Assuming he starts on Sunday against the Browns, it will be the 110th start of his career.
Keisel has been hampered by a foot injury during the second half of this season, but despite missing four games, he ranks third on the team in quarterback pressures (24) heading into the regular season finale. In addition, he ranks third on the Steelers defensive line with 36 tackles this season with 24 of them being solo.
Not only has Keisel been a contributor on the field for the Steelers, he's been an upstanding member of the Pittsburgh community as well. He's raised more than $100,000 for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC with his annual Shear Da Beard event and just last week he dressed up as Santa Claus and headed to downtown Pittsburgh during lunch hour to help collect donations for the Salvation Army.
Father time is unfortunately undefeated, but Keisel has managed to hold him off longer than most players are able to. If indeed this is the final time that he dons the black and gold, he won't soon be forgotten. No. 99 will eventually be worn by other future Steelers players, but those players aren't likely to wear it as long and as gracefully as "The Beard" did. There will only be one Brett "The Diesel" Keisel and that beard of his was most definitely feared.
Win one for Keisel.