Jamison Hensley, who doubles as ESPN.com’s AFC North Blogger and full-time Baltimore Ravens “Fan Boy,” wrote an article today on whether or not 2013 would be Brett Keisel’s final season with the Steelers.
Keisel, a seventh round draft choice in 2002, has played the entirety of his career with Pittsburgh and has been a starter at defensive end for the franchise since 2006. The Steelers have made a concerted effort to get younger in the defensive trenches over the last couple of years, particularly because they selected both Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward with their first round draft choices in 2009 and 2011.
So with the rebuilding process already underway, the writing might be on the wall for a veteran like the “The Beard” whose contract will expire after the 2013 season. While it appears that the cap-strapped and rebuilding Steelers will not extend Keisel after this season, there could be glimmer of hope for him if the following occurred:
- Hood leaves after another mediocre/sub-par season.
- Heyward continues to instill little faith that he can take over for Keisel after the 2013 campaign.
- Al Woods , Nick Williams, and Brian Arnfelt only project to be rotational substitutes at best.
While I do have confidence that Woods and the two rookies can be a solid rotational players down the line, it would not shock me in the least to see both Hood and Heyward underwhelm again this fall. Hood will be a UFA when the 2013 season concludes, and Heyward will reach that same status in the spring of 2015. Keisel’s presence would help to bridge the gap while Woods, the two rookies, and possibly another draft choice/UDFA or two in 2014 can develop.
I should add however that long-time nose tackle Casey Hampton was unsigned this past offseason, particularly due to the franchise’s decision to install Steve McLendon at his spot this fall. Thus, it would take Hood and Heyward displaying enormous amounts of incompetence (which could very well happen) for the Steelers’ brass to ink Keisel to a new deal.
If the 2013 campaign is in fact Keisel’s last though, then he will have left the team as one of its biggest unsung heroes of the previous decade. “The Beard” was a key reserve on one Super Bowl winning team, started on one of the decade’s most dominant defensive units when they won their second Super Bowl of the 00’s, and made his first and only Pro Bowl the same season in which the Steelers captured the AFC title. Not bad for a seventh round draft choice if you ask me.
For now though, let’s hope that Keisel can play some good football in his contract season and will provide us fans with more terrific memories.
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