Steelers plan to use Keisel's versatility
The childlike enthusiasm with which Brett Keisel has been approaching practice is fitting, since it he may have trouble staying still next season.
Keisel figures to move around a lot as the Steelers try to take advantage of the 6-foot-5 285-pounder's size and athleticism as well as the opportunity to disrupt opposing offenses before and after the snap.
He's listed as a defensive end, but Keisel's role will be, by design, much harder to define.
"I'll start in a three-point (stance), stand up, come back to the three-point," Keisel said Wednesday after an organized team activity practice. "We're trying to mask it so you can't really tell what we're doing, and it's coming along really nice, I think."
The question isn't where Keisel is going to play next season as much as it is where isn't he going to play.
He's even left open the possibility of taking some snaps from center.
"I don't know, maybe send Ben (Roethlisberger) out on a few pass routes," Keisel said, jokingly. "I've heard he's kind of a good athlete."
The same can be said of Keisel.
"He might be one of the most athletic guys on the team," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "He can run. He can jump. He can play in space."
Keisel was a good enough athlete coming out of high school that he could have pursued basketball in college.
Former Pitt coach and current UCLA coach Ben Howland, when he was at Northern Arizona, was among the coaches who recruited Keisel. To hear his Keisel's teammates talk, the 28-year-old Wyoming native still has plenty of game.
"He's probably the best basketball player on the team," Smith said. "He can take it to the well, dunk it. He's got a nice jump shot."
The Steelers are counting on Keisel's being as versatile and well-rounded on the football field.
If that is the case, he could play a role similar to the one Adalius Thomas filled last year in Baltimore.
Thomas gave opposing offenses fits by lining up all over the field, and his versatility made him one of the best players on one of the NFL's top defenses.
Thomas' impact is not lost on Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
"I think they've looked at some of the things (Thomas) did last year and some of the problems Baltimore caused opposing offenses," Keisel said, "and some of the stuff we've copycatted from them and some of the stuff coach LeBeau has designed himself. When you're used to having your hand in the dirt and you get to stand up and get a running start, it's a blast."
Said Smith: "Every time he comes out here, he gets better and better."
That sums up Keisel's career since the Steelers made him the 242nd pick (seventh round) in the 2002 NFL draft.
The BYU product has gradually improved, and last season, his first as a starter, Keisel recorded 55 tackles and 5 1⁄2 sacks. He apparently showed LeBeau enough to stir the mad scientist in the longtime defensive coordinator.
"We're just trying a whole bunch of stuff right now," Keisel said. "I'm very excited. I was out of town over the weekend, and it's just all I can think about, this opportunity that we have right now and trying these new things out."
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