If Not Carrington, Then Keisel

While the Pittsburgh Steelers had former Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Alex Carrington in for a meeting and a physical yesterday, they did let him depart the facility without having first signed a contract.

While the two sides reportedly had a good visit and intend to continue communicating, the next team that schedules a visit with him may not be so hospitable toward letting him exit the building without giving his autograph to the team accountants.

With that in mind, it’s time to consider the alternatives to filling the void along the defensive line left by the departures of Ziggy Hood and Al Woods, though Cam Thomas should help replace Woods’ rotational role.

The most realistic, and perhaps most probable, alternative, despite its lack of long-term future, would have to be re-signing Brett Keisel.

This solution is but a quick fix, of course, but at some point, the Steelers may be left with no other alternative. Keisel certainly believes that he still has another year in him, and I suspect the team believes he can still play as well.

Yes, he has been bothered by injuries over the past few seasons, missing the better part of five games just last year, but he showed in the last two games that he could recover and play well when he does get injured.

Keisel has said that he doesn’t want to play for a veteran-minimum salary. So the Steelers will pay him more than veteran-minimum. That shouldn’t be an issue if it comes down to it that he is their best, or even only candidate to start alongside Cameron Heyward at defensive end this season.

As much as I was impressed with Brian Arnfelt’s playing during the 2013 preseason, in terms of looking the part of a 3-4 defensive end, I’m not about to hand him a starting job. He should, however, begin to see regular snaps this season in a rotation with a snap count climbing as the season progresses.

After all, even if the Steelers were to sign Carrington, for example, Arnfelt would still be the third defensive end on the depth chart, although Thomas is also capable of lining up as a 5-tech defensive end.

And if Keisel were re-signed, it would be a given that he will be coming off the field at regular intervals for a blow, which is a topic that he himself discussed in the event that he does play this season.

If nothing happens with Carrington tomorrow, then I believe that we are probably moving closer to the Keisel alternative, which will probably realistically be a better option at defensive end in 2014 than many of the other defensive end options currently available on the free agent market.

Perhaps by 2015, Arnfelt, or even Nick Williams, will be ready to take on a bigger role. Don’t forget that the Steelers have also taken a significant interest in exploring the defensive end crop in the upcoming draft. Keisel could be not only the bridge to the next starter, but also the teacher and the mentor.

About the Author

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

    They would be better off playing a two man front than resigning Keisle, the guy can’t even get out of his squat at the snap.

  • Jollyrob68

    They made Ike take a paycut so why would they pay an injured Keisel more than vet minimum? When he came back at the end of the season he was in the right spot at the right time. He didn’t push off his foot and provide a rush,he squatted down and hovered around the line then put his hands up.
    I don’t like the fact he’s the only option left but agree that he may be the most realistic option available for now. Here’s hoping they sign Carrington or someone younger gets cut. Hell I’d give Corey Wootton a 1year deal even with the bad hip.

  • dgh57

    Carrington is as good as gone as some team with plenty of cap space will offer him more money than we could. To early to talk about Keisel as he’ll probably still be there down the road as no team will come banging on his door anytime soon. So it looks like it’s left up to the draft to solve the problem.

  • 804Stiller

    As good as he was, I believe it’s time to move on from Keisel as a starter. Additionally, Heyward seems ready to take a leadership role as far as play and leadership. I’m really excited about that kid. I just hope we can sign Carrington.

  • falconsaftey43

    You really think some team is going to pay him more than 3-4 million a year? That’s what it’d have to be for us not to afford it. We could even afford 5 mill a year as that’s what they gave Mitchelle, but his cap hit this year was only a little over 2. If they don’t sign him it’s not because they couldn’t afford him.

  • dgh57

    Teams reach and overpay players all the time is what I’m saying.

  • Nolrog

    I like the idea of bringing back Keisel for those reasons mentioned. It buys a little time to address this position, which could be done in the draft and then the kid will have a year to learn before being thrust into starting.

  • Babybull

    No. Not kiesel it’s time to move on play V W an BA it’s time to see what we got before they become FA if we are going to be 8/8 do it with young guys it’s time to get these young guys going BK played last year where did that get us no where time to move on.

  • greeny

    What is the status of Worilds’ contract negotiation?

  • Bob

    If I were the FO, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to extend Worilds until after the draft. You never know, we may just take another OLB #1 if Mack, possibly even Barr are there when we pick.

  • 20Stoney

    I think you almost have to throw that Browns game away when evaluating Keisel or anybody else. He and Jones looked great, but I’m pretty sure the Browns had packed it away and were ready to go home. They looked absolutely terrible.

  • DoctorNoah

    Keisel played admirably before he got hurt. Was a big body, made a lot of tackles, penetrated fairly well. He’s not Jared Allen, but he is a consistent, reliable starter who can be had for a low price. Of course would like a young stud in there, but Nix sure as hell ain’t it.

    Right now, I like him as a backup and would project DE Heyward, NT Thomas, DE McClendon with Keisel and Arnfelt as primary backups.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I wouldn’t say he’s a better alternative. If it was up to me, i’d go through with the draft; Kevin Colbert and the FO already have seen enough of quality players in free agency to know what kindof players they are getting, the quanitity are there but quality is not. I’d not be against drafting two D-linemen in the draft if we trade back. After draft, I mean AFTER the UDFA signings and the mini-camp andif Steelers still see a hole within their defense, sign Keisel. Just don’t sign him, not yet. Time is our virtue right now, let’s use it.

  • patrick Mayfield

    what if you see what you’ve got and you don’t like it? Then maybe you want a vet to fall back on. Perhaps not all fans are shooting for an 8-8 season like yourself.

    Say what you want about the potential for BA, VW and Woods for that matter. Fact is none of these could even send Ziggy to the bench.

  • Steelers12328882

    Losing Woods/Hood, not signing Carrington, giving Thomas 2 mil/year to sit on the bench(for the most part), and being forced to give Keisel more than the minimum AND a starting position is a huge fail for the front office. What was the plan going into free agency as far as the defensive line was concerned? I’d sure like to know, cause it’s not looking great so far.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I’ve been hearing for a long time about the possibility of McClendon moving to DE (and being a better DE than NT). Frankly, I’m intrigued by the potential there too, but where did this originate? Did he rotate in at DE last season? Have any coaches or FO people ever mentioned this possibility? Just wondering if it’s a legit possibility, or just a rumor.

  • Toddy Bravo

    Keisel said he wouldn’t play for vet minimum. He never said he wouldn’t play for less than last year. I’m sure he’d play for even less than Ike money. Also, while I think his starting days are numbered, or maybe even over, that doesn’t mean he can’t play anymore. Many people will probably call me crazy, but I think he would be one of the better backup DEs in the league. I think we’re going to draft a DE between the 3rd and 5th rounds, so who better to teach the young man the system and show him the Steeler way than The Beard.

  • greeny

    We need cap room now and we should take an OLB early as well. I have more faith in Worilds than I do Jones unless Jones is on a nice cycle of steroids

  • Toddy Bravo

    I don’t think it’s that doom and gloom. First, I think losing Ziggy was a positive. We also haven’t signed Carrington YET. It still may happen, but whose to say they don’t think there’s a better option in the draft. Thomas is also a cheap, serviceable backup. I mean, how much more should we spend on a guy who’s going to see 5-10 snaps/game? IMO, letting Al Woods go is the only negative this entire offseason. If we don’t sign Cotchery, that would be another.

  • Steelers12328882

    Yeah maybe Carrington would be an upgrade, but who knows. Plus, Ziggy was always healthy. It’s just the whole combination of things that makes it confusing as far as what their plan was. Right now it seems like they’ll have to pay too much for Carrington, cause he and his agent know that the Steelers are desperate. 3 days into free agency and they’ve shown their cards. Not good. The only other option is to resign Keisel, which will also be for more then we want to pay, cause again we are desperate, and hope for a draft pick to come in and contribute right away? Maybe not gloom and doom but certainly as mismanaged as their time outs at the end of games.

  • AndyR34

    Made up nonsense by so-called fans who looked at the Steeler website and see Mac listed at 285 lbs. and say he is too small to be a NT. He may have been 285 in college, but he has bulked up since coming to the Steelers. It has been reported that he played last year around 320. Not to compare skills, but Snack played @318 his rookie year.

  • Babybull

    Is that because of talent are DL don’t like playing young guys remember J Mitch has to. Make them forget everything they learned which I still don’t understand.

  • Babybull

    Hope we draft WR first because I hate seeing early picks watching from sideline with DL time to get D cord that’s up with times. JJ watt never had to be retought how to play with Houston

  • Babybull

    What do you call playing great in a jack rabbit stands are D was the worst I ever seen in last decade in Pitt kiesel look like he was on ice scares

  • Babybull

    I keep hearing AW better option ziggy but he couldn’t beat zig your so how is that better

  • Toddy Bravo

    Thanks. The only think I may disagree with is Hamp’s weight. I don’t think he’s seen 318 since middle school. lol.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You can’t solve the 2014 DE problem with a 2014 draft pick. He’s not going to start. Somebody has to play this year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    They are obviously trying to move on, but he has to be the fallback option if all else fails.

  • Matthew Marczi

    McLendon was a defensive end when he came here.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I agree with you that they can wait, but I do see Keisel as a better alternative in 2014 than most other options.

  • dgh57

    Seems I left the letter s off the word problem as we can at least solve the depth problem at DE. If Carrington slips by I’m not sure if there’s another DE out there worthy of us signing. I don’t want us reaching for a DE just for the sake of filling a spot on the roster and end up regretting it later. We may end up drafting a DE in the top half of the draft and signing Keisel back as a bridge to 2015.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Barring a Carrington deal, I suspect that’s the avenue they’ll take, although, and I know this is a stretch, I wouldn’t rule out Brian Arnfelt as a 2015 starter. Obviously, we have to see what he looks like this year first.

  • dgh57

    I like Arnfelt a lot and I think the team is also as evidenced by them not sending him back down when all were healthy on the DL. Only time will tell.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    You might be right but… we can’t excludes the possibly of teams going into draft, found a better replacement; release their own veterans, for example, F. Velaso. I guess from FO perception we should have the depth set beforehand but I kind of want to wait longer, much closer to when the season starts. Keisel is somebody who can step in a week before season start so I would like for them to take this risky move. If nobody’s out there, sign Brett to less 1.7 million dollars worth of contract and let him retire after.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Oh! And off the point-but Matthew, don’t you kind of wish Steelers would have at least take a look at Lamar Houston? His size and pass-rushing would easily replace Keisel’s pro bowl season on a consistent-basis. Ah oh well.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Not for $7 million a year…not this year anyway, especially with Heyward needing to be locked up soon.