Is this Keisel's final season with Steelers?

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
11:30
AM ET
LATROBE, Pa. -- Defensive end Brett Keisel isn't big into change. He's played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past 12 years. He's had the same defensive line coach (John Mitchell) for all those years and he's played in the same defense.

So, it makes a lot of sense that Keisel was sentimental as training camp comes to close. These could be the final days at St. Vincent College for Keisel, who is in the final year of his contract.

Keisel
Keisel
"I was driving up here [Tuesday] and you don’t know what’s going to happen," Keisel said. "I stopped and smelled the flowers a little more."

Keisel has been as much of a fixture of the Steelers' defense as Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, and it goes beyond his signature beard. In his seven years as a starter, the Steelers' defense has finished No. 1 four times and No. 2 once.

At 34, Keisel is the oldest starter on the Steelers' defense. But he hasn't been showing his age, leading the team with 40 quarterback hurries last season.

"He hustles hard," linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "I always see him in the weight room. I don't feel like age is bothering him right now. He has some type of youth juice. He's doing real good for us right now."

Keisel is scheduled to earn $2.8 million in the final season of a five-year deal. His future is uncertain, especially with former first-round draft pick Cameron Heyward looking like his heir apparent.

"I’m focused not on my contract or this could be my last year," Keisel said, "I’m focused on leading this group of young men back down glory road."

The Steelers wouldn't have a decision to make if Keisel decides to retire. But it doesn't seem like he's leaning toward that right now.

"I feel great," Keisel said. "I feel like as long as I can play and as long as I can carry out my responsibility and lead, I could play longer. But we’ll see what happens."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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