Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Free Agents Analysis: DE Brett Keisel – Unrestricted

By Matthew Marczi

Player: Brett Keisel

Position: Defensive End

Experience: 12 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2013 Salary Cap Hit: $4,900,000

2013 Season Breakdown: There’s no doubt that Brett Keisel’s level of play has slipped, particularly in 2013, which was yet another season derailed by injury. That in itself—frequent and repeated injuries—is already a significant cause for concern when it comes to the 35-year-old veteran defensive end, but there is also concern when it comes to his performance on the field as well.

For example, he missed six games in 2008, yet he still finished the season with 41 tackles. This year, in 12 games, he only amassed 29 tackles. He hasn’t had the same impact on games in 2013 overall as he had in the not too distant past, when he was being named to the Pro Bowl or listed as an alternate.

When he got injured this year, he tried to rush himself back, knowing full well that this could very well be his last year putting on a uniform. That backfired, and he was forced to sit out even longer.

When he returned for the last two games of the season, he played with the determination of a man knowing he was reaching the end of his career. He had a sack in each game, forced a fumble, and recovered another in those two games.

That doesn’t quite paint the full picture, however, especially when it comes to the season finale. It should be noted that he was going up against a backup to a backup in the form of left guard Garrett Gilkey, a rookie with almost no experience coming into the game.

Still, Keisel had stretches during the season that looked like the player of old, particularly when rushing the passer, which is certainly something that he does better than Ziggy Hood.

Free Agency Outlook: Even if there were a market for the 35-year-old defensive end—which is not entirely impossible, but unlikely—Keisel is probably at a point in his life where he wouldn’t consider playing for another city. The same could be said of other recent former Steelers like Hines Ward, James Farrior, and one of Keisel’s best friends, Aaron Smith, all of whom chose to retire rather than play elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see what the Steelers do. They have two other defensive ends also hitting unrestricted free agency in Hood and Al Woods, and they would likely want to re-sign two of the three. Woods will certainly come cheapest, and also has position flexibility, so I suspect it comes down to Keisel and Hood.

Hood is by far the younger player, and perhaps still has some room to grow—Keisel was a late bloomer himself. Yet he was benched in favor of Keisel and Cameron Heyward after the first four games of the season.

In the end, I would suspect that youth will win out and the Steelers will try to re-sign Hood to a reasonable, modest contract. He certainly hasn’t had a flashy career, but he could also draw interest as a defensive tackle by 4-3 teams. Keisel may be willing to accept a rotational role at a cheaper contract if the Steelers could afford that, but otherwise it’s likely that we’ve seen Keisel’s last days in a uniform.

Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • pittsburghjoe

    It will be interesting to see where the Steelers place blame for the relative inability to stop the run. If they draft Nix, the question will be answered. This will also answer the DE question, which will be answered by moving Mac there. I think Corner and Safety is a bigger need. I also agree with the school that says Mac was not the problem with stopping the run.

  • Jollyrob68

    I’d rather have Tuitt than Nix but neither because The Steelers don’t let them play that much as rookies. THe waste a talented DL by changing and sitting.

  • Jollyrob68

    I thank him for his service and send him on his way. We have new younger players that need to play.

  • CW

    I could see Keisel being resigned for 1 year vet min to be honest. He will probably not want to go anywhere and the real question is will he even want to play another year.

    He is near that age when even great players just retire and move on.

  • Aric Brown

    I sure hope they bring the beard back… I’d like them to work Ziggy into a NT role and have Beard and Cam the Man beside him… i know Ziggy is a huge scapegoat and most people wouldn’t mind seeing him go.. but the kid has a work ethic that rivals that of Antonio Brown and I’d like to give him a shot… This would also allow another year for Arnfelt (who I believe COULD be the next Aaron Smith) to develop and work his way into our next starting DE

  • Aric Brown

    Arnfelt could potentially be bulked up a bit to even be given a shot at NT at 6’4″ 300 LBS he’s not too awfully undersized… and let’s not forget his would be (if invited) tops at the combine with 38 reps combined with a 4.8 40 time.. he could be a hybrid 4 down NT

  • stan kemp

    I would rather have Tuitt also; With Hayward on one side and Tuiit on the other side, that would be one of the most formidable duo of bookends in the nfl, and would also solve our pass rush woes instanly (NASTY)

  • cencalsteeler

    As much respect I have for The Beard, Ryan Clark, Plax and Larry Foote, their times are up respectfully. This is a business and we can’t let our hearts dictate what is best for the team. These situations the Steelers are facing are no different than one they faced when they released Hines. Remember, Father Time will always remain undefeated.

  • Callentown

    Fear the beard!! Love ya BK! A true Stiller thru and thru.

    Personally, I think the team is in a bind here. Hood’s ceiling seems hit already and obviously, Keisel is at the end.

    Perhaps the answer is the atypical move of bringing a FA DE in and drafting one as well in middle rounds.

    Good luck to you #99!

  • David Edward

    As with Clark, I think it’s basically a forgone conclusion that Keisel won’t be back. It’s unrealistic to think, at 36, da Beard will perform at a high enough level consistenly enough to fill a DE spot again as a starter. As a backup, maybe, but that roster spot would be better used for a young player to develop for the future than holding onto a old vet for sentiment.
    I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that they need to sign two of their three FA DEs. I think Woods will be the priorty since he’s proven to be both NT and DE capable, and still likely hasn’t reached his full potential. Ziggy has proven in 5 years that his ceiling is mediocrity. That’s not something a team with a D in transition wants to hold on to in hopes of improvement. Sure, if Ziggy would end up not getting an offer elsewhere, then bringing him back as a backup for at or near vet minimum would be OK, but that’s about it. As with the secondary, time to get younger and better on the DL too.
    If they can’t get a CB with the #1 pick, or maybe one of the top shelf WRs, I can see a DE like Tuitt or Hageman being a good pick for them. Either one makes for a nice bookend to Heyward and a good fit when the go 2 DL in the sub packages.

  • steeltown

    Sign him to a 1yr vet, especially if Hood leaves via FA

  • stan kemp

    How long do yall want pitstburgh to keep their old players, until they turn 60. thats why we are in the predicament that we are in now; because we were trying to keep the older players(old veterans) and let go great young players to try to make a couple more super bowl runs when we should have been rebuildig,and we would be super bowl material now.
    Its a dumb move and we still are doing it. Why let go Keenan Lewis go; the absolute best corner we had (yssssses thats right) and now the best corner that the saints have. over Ike Taylor who got burned out of his drawers all year long smart move.we use to be ahead of the curve and thats one reason we are behind the curve now. that didnt work so why keep doing it.

  • Aric Brown

    Bringing back the beard at a reduced ( near vet minimum ) salary is the best possible situation that can happen.. he’s not going to keep Cam off the field and he’s 10 fold better than anybody else (aside from Cam) at the position

  • Aric Brown

    Your calling for young blood… exactly who is waiting in the wings… the Steelers are keeping these guys because we haven’t had a true “next man up” since James Harrison

  • Aric Brown

    I’d like a Keisel and Arnfelt rotation…. IMO Keisel has plenty of tread left on the tires… He and Cam were a 2 man wrecking crew at the end of the year

  • stan kemp

    You are exactly right… the only ones that i can think of now is Arnfelt and Nick Williams and he is a project as of right now. we need to look into free for a DE or via draft for one but you know if we get one from free agency its going to be a stop gap player or someone that is cut

  • stan kemp

    Give Arnfelt and Nick Williams a chance, they cant be no worse than hood. but you know pittsburgh ; they have to develope them in 3 years,because its such a complex defensive system to learn, and then when they do become good we say we have to let them go because we cant afford them and they go somewhere else and end up beating us.So its like we are just a farm team for the nfl. why can the patriots start about 14 rookies this season if im not mistaken and make the playoffs. if dicks system is so complex then what dividends are we getting from it now. the nfl has figured it out and using it against us it is not that complexed anymore. Its been copied by a lot of teams and made better.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I Love the beard but he shouldn’t be offered anything more than a 1yr vet minimum if that. Also with the understanding that he’s being brought back for depth purposes only! Wouldn’t be against bringing back Hood for the right price. Having said that the Steelers should focus on signing Hood, Woods and developing young players such as Arnfelt and N Williams.