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Steelers Bring Back Da Beard

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Last year’s season finale featured what many expected to be the final appearances of Pittsburgh Steelers mainstays Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu. It looks like the Black and Gold are getting the band back together, at least for one more year. Ike and Troy both re-upped during the off-season and yesterday the Steelers announced Da Beard while also return in 2014.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had some concerns about the defensive line. Evidently the Steelers had those same concerns or they wouldn’t have literally snatched Keisel from the jaws of Arizona Pittsburgh West at this late date. Rookie Stephon Tuitt has shown flashes but doesn’t quite get the intricacies of the 3-4 defense. Free agent Cam Thomas isn’t really a natural end. In any case, the Steelers would like to rotate several different ends in and out of the line-up so the bigs always stay fresh. Keisel gives them a number of options.

After bringing back Troy, Ike, and Heath Miller, I always felt the Steelers wanted to reach a similar deal with the Diesel.  The hold up came when his goofy agent proclaimed his client would rather retire than play for minimum wage. “Minimum wage” in NFL-speak being about a million dollars, by the way. Well, now that they both learned that the league wasn’t exactly beating down the doors to throw money at a 36 year old lineman coming off an injury marred campaign, they came to their sense and signed with the Steelers for the veteran’s minimum.

If he stays healthy, Keisel can definitely be a big contributor. He accomplished more in two games last year than his erstwhile replacement, Ziggy Hood, did in ten. Cam Heyward has been tabbed as starting right end, Keisel’s customary position, so it remains to be seen whether they move Ironhead Jr. over to the left. It also makes me wonder what they’ll do with Thomas, who hasn’t looked great at end but can also play nose tackle. I’m still not sold on Steve McClendon at nose so maybe Thomas will finally get a look there.

After last year’s defensive fiascos, the Steelers were expected to debut a revamped squad this season. Of course, one can argue some of the problems we had last year – particularly the inability to stop the run – were precisely because Keisel missed huge chunks of time. I’m not sure how much gas is realistically left in the Diesel’s tank but one nice thing about having depth at the position is that he won’t necessarily need to be out there for every snap. And, hey, even if he’s limited to 10-12 plays a game, I’ll take a dozen flashes of the old Brett Keisel over none any day of the week.