Pittsburgh Steelers: Brett Keisel

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PITTSBURGH -- Just as with defensive end Brett Keisel a month ago, it makes perfect sense right now for the Steelers to bring back James Harrison for one more season.

Not that it is ideal.

Harrison is less than a month removed from officially announcing his retirement at Steelers headquarters. He is 36. And he recently taunted Roger Goodell via social media as the embattled NFL commissioner came under heavy fire for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic assault case.

Harrison
Harrison
Harrison's anticipated return has to make it awkward, given that Steelers president Art Rooney II, who is overseeing an investigation of Goodell's office, has publicly supported Goodell.

Harrison couldn’t have known, when he retired Sept. 5 or when he joined the chorus criticizing Goodell, his old nemesis, that his retirement would put Brett Favre to shame, given its brevity.

But even at his advanced football age, Harrison is clearly the best option the Steelers have at outside linebacker, with Jarvis Jones out for at least the next two months after surgery to fix a dislocated wrist.

Dick LeBeau’s defense helped make the former undrafted free agent a star, and Harrison might -- might -- need a brief refresher to fit right back into it.

Even if he has lost a step, Harrison’s knowledge of the defense will allow him to play more quickly than just about anyone the Steelers could bring in off the street. And make no mistake: The Steelers have no other option than to bring in an outside linebacker.

They were confetti-thin at the position even before Jones went down, and undrafted rookie Howard Jones, who is on the practice squad, is a developmental player.

He is, at most, ready to play special teams at this level, and that is not a knock against him as much as it is recognition that Jones is trying to make the jump from Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia, to the NFL.

The Steelers don’t need Harrison to play like he did in his prime, when he tormented opposing quarterbacks and was one of the most feared players in the NFL. They don't even need him to start, with Arthur Moats poised to step in for Jarvis Jones.

That said, Harrison probably will play significant snaps, something Keisel has done with success, despite not re-signing with the Steelers until Aug. 20.

Keisel, who turned 36 last week, kept himself in excellent shape while he waited for a phone call. That and his familiarity with the Steelers defense accelerated his game-readiness. The same should hold true with Harrison, whose work ethic is legendary.

During the offseason, Harrison made it no secret that he wanted to end his career in Pittsburgh.

Wearing a pinstripe suit while announcing his retirement in front of the likes of coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and former -- soon-to-be current -- teammates such as Keisel, Troy Polamalu was probably what Harrison had in mind.

But things have quickly changed, and the Steelers now need Harrison as much as he needed them after a nondescript season in Cincinnati.

It looks like he will be able to end his career the way he had hoped all along.

They said it: Five takes from Steelers

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
11:30
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Here are five quotes that I needed to find somewhere to get on the blog or help tie everything together with the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapping up their preparation for their Sunday night game at the Carolina Panthers.

I have a feeling a certain cornerback who wears No. 24 will be making a regular appearance in this end of the week feature.

The Steelers' takes:
"We're trying to target it low and not too low because you get penalized there. But we're trying to play within the rules and it's a judgment call sometimes. You still have to go hit a guy. You have to tackle him. We were just talking about missed tackles [and] if you start worrying about where you are going to hit the guy you're going to miss him for sure. But we're trying to just lower the target and hit that guy not with our head and not in the head." -- Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on how the Steelers have adjusted to the rules that prohibit hitting players who are deemed defenseless and helmet-to-helmet hits
"Get your Twitter game up, get your Facebook game up, let people who might not know you see what you can do on the field, let your peers, teammates, family and friends see." -- Cornerback Ike Taylor on the Steelers playing a prime-time game Sunday at Carolina
"You've got to be Steady Eddie right now, You can't get too high, you can't get too low. We understand that we played terrible last week. All we can focus on is Carolina and just try to get better. We are mad but at the end we've got to get better and get ready for Carolina." -- Defensive end Cameron Heyward on the Steelers not panicking after a 20-point loss to the Ravens on Sept. 11
"Derek must be calling on his Cleveland experience. It's something that we appreciate. It's not something we take for granted. We realize there is responsibility that comes with that and the responsibility is to entertain our fans and we take that very seriously." -- Coach Mike Tomlin on backup Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson taking to Twitter to encourage season ticket holders at Bank of America Stadium not to sell their tickets to Steelers fans Sunday
"This old Model 78's leaking oil a little bit but it's out there having fun." -- Defensive end Brett Keisel, who turned 36 today, on how he is holding up after playing extensively in the Steelers first two games of the season
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Lance Moore and defensive tackle Steve McLendon were full participants in practice on Wednesday and each is on track to play Sunday night in Carolina.

Moore, who missed the Pittsburgh Steelers' first two games because of a nagging groin injury, has practiced both days this week.

The ninth-year veteran will make his Steelers debut against the 2-0 Panthers barring a setback.

McLendon, who left the Steelers’ 26-6 loss to the Ravens last Thursday with a shoulder injury, also should play in Carolina unless he experiences a setback.

Rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle) and left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) were limited in practice. Archer did not play against the Ravens because of a sprained ankle.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not mention Foster when he gave an injury update Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Defensive end Brett Keisel, strong safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller were also given practice off by Tomlin.

A number of Panthers players didn’t practice on Wednesday, including linebacker Thomas Davis (hip), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (back), running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Defensive end Greg Hardy did not practice and the Panthers are expected to take Hardy off the 53-man roster and place him on the NFL’s exempt list following a bench conviction for assaulting his former girlfriend.

Steelers need to shore up run defense

September, 17, 2014
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PITTSBURGH – Brett Keisel, who has played on defenses that simply didn’t allow teams to run the ball, delivered a message earlier this week.

“Come in here and make it important,” the veteran defensive end said. “Do the little extra things that you might not have had to do up to this point because you’ve been a great college player. In the pros it’s different. You’ve got to prepare every week differently and you can’t relax or you’ll get gashed.”

Keisel
Keisel
The Steelers’ defense has been gashed repeatedly in the running game, something that would have been unheard of in the prime of Keisel’s career.

The Steelers yielded a team-record 62.8 rushing yards per game in 2010, and they allowed just one 100-yard rusher in 50 games during a span that stretched from 2007-10.

The run defense sprung leaks in 2013 when the Steelers yielded 115.6 rushing yards per game. And the defense is again searching for answers after giving up 170 rushing yards per game through the first two weeks of this season.

Only three other teams have been worse than the Steelers when it comes to stopping the run.

“We’ve talked and things were said and we just need to get on the same page,” Keisel said. “I like where we’re going.”

The Steelers insist the problems that have allowed the likes of Terrance West, Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett to run on them can be fixed.

But they have to start tackling better and staying in their assigned gaps, particularly up front.

Hitting in practice doesn’t occur during the regular season but coach Mike Tomlin said that shouldn’t prevent the Steelers from improving this week when it comes to the most basic fundamental in football.

“Tackling is about a plan or an approach, and having a hardcore plan and recognizing the positions that your positions puts you in (and) the manner in which you approach the ball from a variety of positions on the field,” Tomlin said. “All of those things can be done in a practice setting without actually tackling. We have been emphasizing that (and) we’ll continue and we’ll expect the tackling to improve because of it.”

Keisel said he is encouraged by the desire of the younger players on the Steelers’ defense to get better.

“Guys are willing to work, they’re willing to listen, they’re willing to take coaching and that’s a positive thing,” said Keisel, who is in his 13th NFL season. “But you’ve got to make it a habit. You’ve got to approach it like a pro, you’ve got to study like a pro, and that’s the biggest thing I want these guys to understand. That this is big business and you’ve got to be ready to go when that National Anthem goes off.”

And if they don’t?

“We’re going to be up and down like we were all last year,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said.
PITTSBURGH -- Recent player arrests and -- the NFL's response to ones related to domestic abuse and child abuse -- has led to an avalanche of criticism of the billion-dollar league.

But Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel defended the NFL and said the actions of a few are not representative of most of the players.

Keisel
Keisel
"There is a lot of negativity out right now in the league but I hang my hat on every day knowing there are a lot of good guys in this game, too," Keisel said on Monday. "There's a lot of guys that do the right thing, that act the right way, that are living productive and charitable lives. Negative news sells. It's the world we live in."

Negative news has engulfed the NFL since last Monday when TMZ released a video of Ray Rice punching his then fiancÚ and knocking her out in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotel elevator.

Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. But an investigation has been commissioned to review the NFL's conduct in the Rice case.

Its handling of abuse cases has also been questioned following a bench conviction of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy for assaulting his former girlfriend. Hardy played in Carolina's season opener but was deactivated Sunday as was Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson following his arrest late last week for child abuse.

The Vikings have said Peterson will play this week. Hardy is practicing this week, though his status for a Sunday night game against the Steelers has not been decided.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu shrugged off a question about what impact the negative publicity has had on the NFL.

"To be honest, I don't pay attention to any (media coverage) whether it's good or bad," the eight-time Pro Bowler said. "I'm not concerned with the image of the league. That's what (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell's concern is and the league owners' concern is. I am concerned with the image of this team and this organization and our program and whether we win or not."

Keisel and Polamalu are two of the Steelers' leaders and among their players who are most active in the community.

Both are past Steelers' winners of the Walter Payton Award, which recognizes players for their charitable contributions.

"There's a lot of guys in this locker room and locker rooms throughout the league that try and do the right thing," Keisel said. "That's really all I think about is making a positive impact when I can and being a good productive player at the same time."

The Film Don't Lie: Steelers

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
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A weekly look at what the Steelers must fix:

The Pittsburgh Steelers have to start forcing opposing offenses into low-percentage situations, something they didn’t do at all on two 12-play drives that resulted in the Ravens’ touchdowns on Thursday night.

The Ravens faced a total of just four third downs on their touchdown drives. None was longer than 4 yards, and Dick LeBeau’s defense is predicated on stopping the run and putting teams in obvious passing situations.

“If you can make a team one-dimensional, it’s so much easier to play the game,” Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell said. "But if you’re in third-and-1s and third-and-2s [offenses] can do whatever they want. We can’t continue to play teams where they can run and pass on us.“

The Steelers actually fared well when they put the Ravens significantly behind the chains. Baltimore did not convert a third down longer than 6 yards in its 26-6 win over Pittsburgh, and it was just 5-of-12 in third-down percentage.

The problem for the Steelers is they consistently gave up yards in chunks because of a combination of shoddy tackling and players not staying in their assigned gaps on running plays.

That allowed the Ravens to stay away from third-and-long situations for much of the game.

“I think it’s new faces, new guys understanding new techniques, new responsibilities,” veteran defensive end Brett Keisel said about why the Steelers have struggled on defense. “It’s a hard transition, but it’s a transition that has to happen.”

It won't get any easier against the 2-0 Panthers, who are coming off an impressive 24-7 home win over the Detroit Lions.
PITTSBURGH -- A search for answers after a 20-point loss in Baltimore will lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a familiar place: turnovers.

And not the three they committed last Thursday, including a lost fumble that snuffed out an opening drive that should have resulted in at least three points.

The Steelers have not forced a turnover in two games, and such a statistic would not mean too much standing on its own since the 2014 season is still in its infancy.

But the Steelers have not fielded an opportunistic defense since 2010, the last time they played in the Super Bowl, and Brett Keisel is at a loss to explain why.

“I wish I knew the answer to that because you guys have been asking that for a while,” the veteran defensive end said.

The questions, Keisel would be the first to admit, are justified.

The Steelers forced 35 turnovers in 2010, and they erased a double-digit halftime lead against the Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game with a couple of game-changing takeaways in the third quarter.

Since 2010, the Steelers have averaged a tick under 20 takeaways per season.

They had 20 last season -- none during a disastrous 0-4 September -- and if the start of 2014 is any indication the Steelers are still trying to figure out how to win the crucial turnover battle.

“They kind of just happen,” free safety Mike Mitchell said of takeaways. “You capitalize when you have an opportunity.”

The Steelers missed an opportunity early in the fourth quarter last Thursday night when they were still in the game.

A blitzing Ryan Shazier forced Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to make an ill-advised throw near the goal line that cornerback Cortez Allen had a chance to intercept. Allen made a nice play on the ball but he couldn’t pick it off and the Ravens kicked a short field to increase their lead to 20-6.

The catch was a tough one for Allen but the Steelers have to make those plays if they want to start generating turnovers.

“They’re going to come,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said after the 26-6 loss to the Ravens. “I’m not going to worry about that. We were in position a bunch of times. We just have to finish them.”

Keisel agreed.

“We’ve got to give our offense the ball,” he said, “and give them short fields and put points on the board.”

Until the Steelers start doing that the question will persist as to why the defense has not been more opportunistic.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steelers' mailbag. If you have a question for future mailbags please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go ...

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think it's personnel more than anything. Not to give Dick LeBeau a pass, because either opposing teams have figured him out or he has to adjust his schemes to fit his players. I refuse to believe the game has passed him by, but LeBeau is arguably facing his greatest challenge as the Steelers' defensive coordinator, because I'm not sure how much talent he has with which to work. Name the difference-makers on the Steelers' defense. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons and maybe defensive Cameron Heyward qualify. Linebacker Ryan Shazier will become one, but he is going through the typical rookie growing pains right now. The biggest problem the Steelers have defensively right now is they are not winning up front. They have to fix that and work from there. And last I checked, LeBeau, a Hall of Fame cornerback, hasn't made a tackle in decades. The Steelers, as a whole, have to do a better job of tackling, and that is incumbent upon the players.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: The Steelers used a silent snap count on Thursday night, and maybe the crowd noise was too much of a factor for them to use the no-huddle on the road. And, to be fair, the Steelers didn't have trouble moving the ball against the Ravens. They just killed themselves with turnovers, a couple of untimely penalties and some missed passes that Ben Roethlisberger usually completes in his sleep. I'm not sure how much the Steelers will use the no-huddle next Sunday since they are playing at Carolina. But if the offense struggles early, they will have to try something to shake things up.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: Tough to argue with you, but I would play Brett Keisel at defensive end in the base defense instead of Cam Thomas and get Stephon Tuitt snaps when the Steelers go to the nickel. I think Tuitt will play more as the season progresses, but right now Keisel is their second best defensive lineman. I'm not sure what the Steelers were thinking in waiting so long to bring Keisel back -- and thinking Thomas is starter material at defensive end after he lost his starting job at nose tackle last season in San Diego. It's still early, but Thomas looks best suited to provide depth at defensive end and nose tackle, something Al Woods did last season.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think the Steelers signed Thomas as a stop-gap with the hopes that he could hold down a starting job until a younger defensive end was ready to take over opposite Heyward. It's not like the Steelers paid a ton of money for him, but certainly they expected more from Thomas than what they have gotten through the first two weeks of the season. No question the Steelers have to improve up front or they don't have a chance defensively. Everything with LeBeau's defense starts with stopping the run. They have been gashed in the first two games by Terrence West, Isaiah Crowell, Bernard Piece and Justin Forsett. Yikes.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think the offense is going to be good, and that it is simply going through a rough spot at a bad time. The return of Lance Moore, assuming the ninth-year veteran is able to play next Sunday night at Carolina, will be huge. Justin Brown isn't ready to play as many snaps as he has been getting and Moore is the kind of savvy veteran who should thrive as the Steelers' No. 3 wide receiver or at least be productive. More problematic is the defense. The Steelers haven't been able to stop the run or put consistent pressure on the quarterback. They have yet to force a turnover in two games, and free safety Mike Mitchell, their prized free-agent signing this year, has really struggled. Yeah, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? I'm still standing by my prediction of 10-6 for the Steelers, because I think the offense will start to carry the team and that the defense will improve as the season progresses. But, as you know, there is a fine line between 10-6 and 8-8 -- and even 10-6 and 6-10..

PITTSBURGH -- Running back Dri Archer and wide receiver Lance Moore did not practice on Tuesday, putting each player’s availability for Thursday night in doubt.

Archer left the Steelers’ 30-27 win over the Browns last Sunday with a sprained ankle and he did not practice a day after he was a limited participant in drills. If Archer can’t play against the Ravens, fullback Will Johnson will also serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 running back.

Johnson got a carry in the Steelers’ final preseason game, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the team had hoped to get him a little more work at the position.

“He’s a competent runner that’s a big back, has good vision,” Haley of Johnson. “He has to find the same holes when he is playing fullback. He’s a nifty, athletic guy. It’s not a bad emergency plan.”

In other alternate plans, Justin Brown will likely serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 wide receiver with Moore still hampered by a groin injury. Moore did not play in the season opener and missing practice on Tuesday does nothing to help his chances to returning to action against the Ravens.

The Steelers did get some good news from the injury front on Tuesday.

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant (shoulder) and safety Shamarko Thomas (Achilles/ankle) were full participants in practice.

Bryant did not play last Sunday while Thomas left the game with a lower leg injury.

In other injury news, center Cody Wallace (finger, hamstring) did not practice on Tuesday while safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor, tight end Heath Miller and defensive end Brett Keisel were given practice off by coach Mike Tomlin.
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers did everything they could to turn what should have been an easy win into a devastating loss.

They were one play away -- perhaps Mike Pettine's decision to opt for a punt instead of attempting a go-ahead 52-yard field goal with 4:37 left and the score tied 27 -- from losing to a rival that never beats them in Pittsburgh.

But Ben Roethlisberger led a late drive to save the Steelers from themselves while offering another painful reminder to the Browns that they once drafted Kellen Winslow Jr. over him.

The bad news for the Steelers after they blew a 24-point halftime lead before winning 30-27 on a 41-yard field goal as time expired is if they need to score 30 points to beat the Browns how many points will they need against elite teams? And how many other times will the offense have to bail out the defense?

A defense that couldn’t stop the run last year got gashed for 183 rushing yards and yielded 6.1 yards per carry. The Browns were simply more physical than the Steelers' defense, and that is something that happened too many times last season.

Four of Cleveland's runs in the second half alone covered at least 15 yards, including a 22-yard scamper by rookie Terrance West that set up the Browns’ first of three touchdowns after halftime.

“They found rhythm with the running game,” coach Mike Tomlin said, “but it was the chunks and misdirection game that was creating real issues for us.”

A review of game film will solve whether Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was able to play pitch and catch with no-name receivers because of the success of the running game. Or whether West rushed for 100 yards on 16 carries because Hoyer was so successful with play-action and throwing to no-name receivers that the Steelers gave too much respect to the pass.

The common thread in the second-half meltdown by the Steelers’ defense is it got caught completely flat-footed by the no-huddle offense that the Browns ran almost exclusively after halftime.

The indictment there is two-fold.

The Steelers should have been expecting the no-huddle or something with the Browns trailing 27-3 going into the third quarter. And even if they were completely surprised by the no-huddle the Steelers should have been able to adjust.

It is one thing to get shredded in the no-huddle by Drew Brees or Andrew Luck, two quarterbacks who will visit Heinz Field later this season. It is quite another to get lit up by a journeyman like Hoyer.

The success of the Browns’ no-huddle offense already has the Steelers thinking they will see it a lot Thursday night in Baltimore.

“This is a big-time copycat league and teams are going to continue to do that to try and move the ball on us,” Brett Keisel said.

And if the Ravens and other opponents use the no-huddle extensively against the Steelers?

“Let ‘em,” Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “We’ll be ready.”

At least one person thinks so.
PITTSBURGH -- Brett Keisel's role on the Steelers’ defense remains unclear but the 13th-year veteran apparently won’t be limited by a snap count in the regular-season opener.

“I think he will be able to take a full load in this game,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “He [just] may be a little tighter on Monday than usual.”

Keisel re-signed with the Steelers on Aug. 20 and the veteran defensive end played in only one preseason game.

Keisel, who started the previous eight seasons, is second on the depth chart at right defensive end.

LeBeau said he is confident Keisel can handle an extended number of snaps Sunday because of how his body responded after playing in the Steelers’ preseason finale last Thursday.

The Steelers remain relatively healthy with the season opener against the Browns approaching, though cornerback Brice McCain (groin) and center Cody Wallace (finger) did not practice on Thursday.

Wallace practiced on Wednesday and McCain was a limited participant in drills.

Along with Wallace and McCain, wide receivers Lance Moore (groin) and Martavis Bryant (shoulder) missed practice on Thursday.

Bryant is not expected to play Sunday and offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Moore will be “iffy down to the wire.”

Justin Brown will replace Moore as the No. 3 wide receiver if the latter is unable to play against the Browns.

For Cleveland, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (wrist), guard Paul McQuistan (ankle) and defensive end John Hughes (hamstring) didn’t practice on Thursday.

Bryant and McQuistan have missed the last two days of practice.
PITTSBURGH – The question centered on Antonio Brown’s role -- and specifically whether the Pro Bowl wide receiver would continue to pull double duty this season.

Keisel
Keisel
Mike Tomlin said he wouldn’t let the fear of an injury to one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' most valuable players stop him from using Brown as a punt returner, where he also earned Pro Bowl honors last season.

Tomlin then referenced the depth chart where Brown is listed ahead of rookie Dri Archer at punt returner.

So what, then, to read into the Steelers’ depth chart at defensive end? Apparently not much with Brett Keisel’s role still undetermined.

Keisel, who re-signed with the Steelers two weeks ago, is listed as the second-team right defensive end behind Cam Thomas. Cameron Heyward, meanwhile, is the starter at left defensive end, with rookie Stephon Tuitt behind him.

Heyward played at right defensive end throughout offseason practices and the preseason, and Tomlin said the fourth-year veteran won’t necessarily move to accommodate Keisel.

“[Keisel] might be the pliable guy,” Tomlin said. “I think those are things we are still sorting out.”

Keisel has started the last eight seasons at right defensive end, but Tomlin and his staff are still trying to figure out the best way to utilize “Da Beard.”

He could end up backing up Heyward at right defensive end and playing in a rotation on the left side with Thomas and Tuitt. What seems clear is that the roles at defensive end won’t be clearly defined in the foreseeable future.

“I still think we’re just getting a sense of what Brett is capable of from a snap standpoint,” Tomlin said. “That will have a lot to do with his utilization in the game along with the performance of others. He’s going to be an asset to us. I look forward to continuing to watch him round into form.”
PITTSBURGH -- Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel is a reserve on the first depth chart the Steelers released since setting their 53-man roster.

Keisel is listed as the backup to Cam Thomas at right defensive end. Cameron Heyward is the starter at left defensive end despite playing on the right side throughout training camp and the preseason.

Rookie Stephon Tuitt is listed as Heyward’s backup at left defensive end.

All four defensive ends on the roster should play extensively Sunday against the visiting Cleveland Browns, and look for the Steelers to dress all six defensive linemen who are on the roster for their season opener.

Coach Mike Tomlin prefers to dress an extra defensive lineman early in the season when heat and humidity are a factor in games.

Also notable on the Steelers’ depth chart:
PITTSBURGH – Brett Keisel is heading into his 13th NFL season, but the veteran defensive end can still recall sweating out the final cuts when he was a rookie seventh-round pick -- No. 242 overall in 2002 -- hoping he had shown the Steelers' coaches enough to make the 53-man roster.

Keisel, as much as anyone in the Steelers’ locker room, can appreciate what those who survive the cuts -- which are taking place across the league -- have endured. That doesn’t mean the fringe players who make the Steelers will receive much more than a succinct congratulations from “Da Beard.”

Keisel
Keisel
“When we come into work, it’s all about moving forward; it’s all about winning,” Keisel said. "We all need we know to start fast.”

And how.

The Steelers all but buried themselves last season with their first 0-4 start since 1968, and team leaders such as Keisel won’t tolerate anything that closely resembles a repeat.

Keisel is still working his way back into football shape after re-signing with the Steelers on Aug. 20, and his role with the team remains unclear.

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive end played his first snaps Thursday night since last December. And the grin he wore in the home locker room afterward neatly summed up his emotions after getting back out on the field.

“I’m glad coach [Mike Tomlin] gave me the opportunity to go out there and play a little bit and get my feet wet,” Keisel said after the Steelers’ 10-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers. “He said he was going to going to take me to the deep end.”

Tomlin didn’t quite go to that extreme.

But Keisel played more than a quarter, and he almost forced a turnover after getting his hand on Derek Anderson’s arm following a free run at the Panthers’ quarterback. When asked to evaluate his performance after the Steelers' final preseason game, Keisel said, “Probably a B-minus, so it’s good to be above average, I guess. I’ve got work to do.”

That he is still working for the Steelers couldn’t mean more to Keisel, who was introduced with the rest of the defensive starters before the start of the game against the Panthers.

“There were a lot of questions whether I’d have the opportunity to do that again, to run out of that tunnel again,” said Keisel, who turns 36 next month. “I love playing this game. I love this team. I love everything that comes with being a Steeler.”

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
The Carolina Panthers (1-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) play Thursday night at Heinz Field.
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told his players the story of wide receiver Derek Moye earlier this week. Moye, an undrafted free agent in 2012, had been on the outside looking in going into the final preseason game last season. Moye caught two passes for 55 yards and just as impressive was his running down Panthers cornerback Josh Norman from behind after an interception. Moye played his way onto the 53-man roster, and Tomlin’s message to those who are in the same situation this year -- and that includes Moye -- was simple: Make it hard if not impossible for us to cut you.
  • Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, who has been back with the Steelers for little more than a week, is expected to receive extensive playing time in a game that is generally reserved for younger players. Keisel could use work in preparation for the regular-season opener, and it will be interesting to see where the 13-year veteran gets his snaps. Keisel started at right defensive end from 2006-13 and Cameron Heyward, who will sit out as a precaution after spraining his ankle last Thursday, is listed at left defensive end on the depth chart. But Heyward started at right defensive end in the Steelers’ third preseason game, the day after they re-signed Keisel, and he has been entrenched there since the outset of offseason practices. We may find out more on how the Steelers plan on using Keisel this season based on where he lines up against the Panthers.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t play against the Panthers. Backup Bruce Gradkowski will play sparingly if at all. That means it will be Landry Jones’ show, and if the second-year man bombs against the Panthers there may not be a place for him on the 53-man roster. The Steelers desperately want Jones, on whom they inexplicably used a fourth-round draft pick in 2013, to earn a spot on the team and not find his way onto it because they want to carry three quarterbacks. The former Oklahoma star did not play well in the Steelers’ second preseason game and he didn’t play at all last Thursday in a 31-21 loss at Philadelphia. It’s interesting that No. 4 quarterback Brendon Kay survived the first round of cuts Tuesday. Is the undrafted rookie competing with Jones or are the Steelers planning to play him Thursday so he can put out game tape after not seeing the field in the first three preseason games?

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