The Pittsburgh Steelers released their first official depth chart of the season yesterday, and it has Brett Keisel listed as the backup right defensive end.
The Steelers still list Cameron Heyward as starting on the left side, rather than the right side, but I don’t expect that to be the case. He should be on the right side, with Cam Thomas on the left.
Nonetheless, Keisel did start at right defensive end in the team’s final preseason game last week, playing 19 snaps in total, and showing well for himself, particularly in terms of generating pressure on the quarterback.
Though he may not start—at least not yet—Keisel will certainly get his work in the rotation, and he showed against the Panthers that he’s still capable.
On the opening drive, with the Panthers marching, the offense was across midfield facing a second and seven. Keisel used a simple bull rush to knock the left guard well back into the pocket, making it uncomfortable for quarterback Derek Anderson.
He rushed the throw a bit to his fullback, Mike Tolbert, who wasn’t quite ready for the pass. He tried to nab it with one hand, but he dropped it for an incompletion.
Two plays later, the Steelers forced a fourth down, but the Panthers elected to go for it with just one yard to go. The defensive line seemed to do its job, with Keisel holding the point and not giving ground on the right side.
Lawrence Timmons met Tolbert in the hole and Ryan Shazier helped bring him down, but the officials ruled that he crossed past the first-down marker with his forward momentum, which I still don’t think is the case.
Not satisfied with the result on the previous play, Keisel once again took it out on the left guard, stalemating him at the line and using the left tackle’s confusion to lap around both linemen. Keisel got in behind Anderson and was able to get a piece of his arm as he tried to get off the pass, resulting in a harmless incompletion.
Unfortunately, two plays later, Keisel got caught up in the Panthers’ screen, and that same guard got his revenge, blocking the defensive end out of the play and knocking him to the ground as the wide receiver ran past him for a first down on third and nine.