By Matthew Marczi
End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Brett Keisel
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 12 Years
Now the oldest player on the team, defensive end Brett Keisel completed his 12th, and perhaps final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers this past December wondering what the future would hold for him.
Would he still be in Pittsburgh in 2014? If so, would he be in the starting lineup? Could he play for another team at this point in his career, or would he follow the lead of many of his best friends and call it a day when the proverbial Turk comes for him?
Of course, Keisel would not be cut; because he’s a pending free agent, he would simply not be re-signed, should it ultimately come to that a couple months from where we now stand at the end of January.
While his advanced age—in football years—of course will play a factor, the ultimate determination of his future employment will be, as it always is, the performance on the field and the tape in the film room.
While playing well in spurts, I am of the opinion that Keisel most certainly had a down season irrespective of injury, this despite the four sacks being the third-highest total in his eight years as a starter.
Let’s speak to the injuries first, however, because there’s no question that it’s a concern, and when you’re penciling in Keisel as a starter at this point, you have to make sure that you have a very capable backup, given the probability that he will have to start at some point for you during the season.
Over the past six seasons, Keisel has missed a total of 18 games, for an average of three games per season. He missed four games last season—and was limited to seven snaps in a game in between those—just a year after playing every game for the first time since 2007.
On the other hand, when he did finally come back from injury for the final two games of the season, he played fairly well overall, though the season finale was the much better game of the two, as he had some rust to knock off in the game prior.
Make no mistake, Keisel is not the Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end that he was just a season or two ago. His performance against the run has slipped, though some of that had to do with the loss of James Harrison, perhaps the best run-stuffing 3-4 outside linebacker of this generation.
As indicated by the four sacks—two of which came in the final two weeks—the strength of Keisel’s game still lies in his play against the pass, which he can still do at times. He is well-versed in Dick LeBeau’s schemes and knows how to run them to generate unblocked pressure for either himself or others.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Keisel can still play and contribute. The Beard certainly agrees with that sentiment as well. At this point in his career, however, perhaps it would be best for the Steelers if he would be willing to re-sign for close to veteran minimum in order to play a defined role, primarily in passing situations, rather than rely on him as a starter, which he has been since 2006. Otherwise, he may have to try on another uniform.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – QB Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Antonio Brown
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Emmanuel Sanders
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – TE Heath Miller
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – T Marcus Gilbert
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – G David DeCastro
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – G Ramon Foster
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – T Kelvin Beachum
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – RB Le’Veon Bell
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – C Fernando Velasco
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – FB Will Johnson