Brett Keisel’s Inclusion On Defense May Be Gradual

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel is getting his first taste of football of the year this week. He was dressed for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles without having taken even a single practice rep. Of course, he didn’t play in the game either.

The last time he was involved in football activities of any kind was in December, as he played what could have easily been the last game of his career against the Cleveland Browns in the Steelers’ season finale.

If he is going to start for Pittsburgh at some point this year, it may take a while before he is able to work himself into football shape.

He may have over a decade of experience in Dick LeBeau’s system, but a refresher course after being away from it for so many months wouldn’t hurt either.

The Steelers’ practices this week leading up to the final preseason game on Thursday is the first time that Keisel is hitting again, maintaining his gap, executing stunts and blitzes, and things of that nature.

And after that short period of time he’ll be thrown into action against the Carolina Panthers in three days—assuming he makes the Tuesday cut. Not that there should be any worry about that.

But there should be worries about how soon he will be up to speed, considering the regular season is fast approaching. Not even simply being able to play with sound fundamentals and technique, but also how long he can play.

Of course, it’s still unclear what type of role Keisel will serve in his 13th season. Whether he’ll be a starter or a rotational player remains to be seen.

But even if he ends up being a starter by name, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his snap count cut significantly as the Steelers heavily rotate in Stephon Tuitt and Cam Thomas.

Not to mention, the performance and progress of the two aforementioned players will have a lot to do with whether or not Keisel is even needed in the starting lineup.

Considering that Cameron Heyward has spent the entire offseason practicing and playing on the right side of the defensive line, it should be interesting to see if the coaching staff moves him over to the left side to accommodate Keisel.

The veteran was predominantly a right-handed player throughout his career, which largely consisted of playing across from heavily left-handed players such as Aaron Smith, and then Ziggy Hood most recently.

Heyward, meanwhile, spent most of his first three seasons going back and forth from the left side to the right whenever one of the two would come off the field.

It’s unknown how many of these questions will be answered on Thursday when Keisel is expected to see his first playing time, unless of course he comes out as a starter. If he does not, however, it can’t be assumed that he won’t in the near future.

It’s also not certain that he will get any playing time with the starters on Thursday, so we may not get a chance to see if either he or Heyward will be the accommodating party when both are on the field together.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Paddy

    The last pre season game is a waste of time. Time for 3 preseason and17 game schedule

  • NW86

    The problem is they can’t really afford to work him in gradually, since that’s also what they need to do with Tuitt. Keisel will start week 1, and hopefully be able to play about half the snaps. That’s as many as he should play all season barring other injuries, with Tuitt becoming the starter and getting the most snaps by midseason.

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s not a waste of time for players on the bubble like Landry, DHB, Blanchflower, Mauro, HoJo, and So’oto.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    The Steelers waited too long to bring Keisel back. I hope they don’t try to rush him into the lineup and get him injured.

  • Big White

    Why isn’t a professional athlete ready to play when the phone call comes??? Are the only gyms in America located at the Steelers training facility???

  • ApexSteel

    Regular shape and football shape are two different forms of conditioning

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Players can’t do blocking and tackling drills when they work out on their own.

  • treeher

    They know what da Beard can do and they wanted to see the performance of those in camp. He can be ready by game one if necessary.

  • Big White

    Shouldn’t matter for a 13 year veteran. Start Tuitt & make Keisel take his job.

  • Nolrog

    There’s a difference between being in shape and being in game shape. It takes some time to get into game shape.

  • Nolrog

    I am not in favor of a 17 game season. I think 16 is just fine. I like the pre-season, but can see it being cut down to 2 games though.

  • PA2AK

    one memory that will never fade….how good you feel working out all offseason vs. the soreness that comes after the first few days of hitting every year. Put that onto a 36 year olds body…give the guy some time!

  • Alan Felicia

    I remember Jerome Bettis doing a segment for either one of the Sunday pregame shows or “Inside the NFL” where he talks about how difficult it was to get out of bed the day after a game in the last years of his career. Funny how oblivious or naive fans are about being “in-shape” versus professional athlete “game shape” especially in the NFL.

  • PA2AK

    rabble rabble….he’s getting paid a lot of money…rabble rabble

  • Alan Felicia

    Of course. No way Keisel was going to play for minimum salary and go through the rigors. Plus, it helped that another team (Arizona) were not only interested but was on the verge of signing him.
    Its always about the money! But, it still gonna take time for Keisel to get in “game shape”

  • joed32

    That may have been part of the deal. He may not have wanted to go to camp.

  • Excited about the defensive line this year. I think we have a good mix of talent. Still don’t have a true Nose but hoping we can get it together!

  • BFB

    Just hoping he didn’t get beered to many times while he was off….

  • Steve

    Nolog and ApexSteel are talking from experience. Keisel could have worked out all summer and not be in Football shape.