View Full Version : Can aging 'D' fill in Keisel's end spot?

09-20-2008, 12:21 AM
Can aging 'D' fill in Keisel's end spot?
Friday, September 19, 2008
By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With one defensive lineman younger than the age of 30, the Steelers have one of the most veteran-laden groups at that position in the NFL. Now that Brett Keisel is out indefinitely with a calf injury, the Steelers will lean on that experience to get through this stretch without their starting right end.

Keisel, the starter since 2006, injured his right calf in the 10-6 victory at Cleveland Sunday night. Coach Mike Tomlin has listed him as week-to-week, but he could miss as much as two months.

The Steelers will replace him with a trio of thirtysomething reserves, all of whom have starting experience in the league. Travis Kirschke, a 12-year player who has been with the team since 2004, will step into the starting spot. Nick Eason, the youngest defensive lineman on the team at 28, will rotate in, as will 35-year old Orpheus Roye.

There were plenty of remarks made during the preseason about the average age of the defensive line, but that experience could come in handy.

"I definitely think it helps when you have guys who have been there and done that," said Kirschke, who signed as a free agent with the Steelers in March 2004 after playing with Detroit and San Francisco. "Obviously, losing Keisel is big. He's a big, athletic guy who made plays. We're going to miss him. But between me, Nick and Orpheus, we have to step up and fill that gap."

This is the second time in as many years that Kirschke will step in for a starter. Last season, he started the final four games when left defensive end Aaron Smith missed the remainder of the season with a torn right biceps. Kirschke has a history of back problems, but they have not prevented him from playing 66 consecutive games for the Steelers.

"It's nothing too major," Kirschke said. "I'm always going to have issues here and there. But we've done a good job of finding ways to get it back to feeling good. When it does start acting up, I'll take some time off. It's something I've been able to manage well. It's one of those things that I can't worry about. I just go out there and do my thing. If it goes, it goes. Hopefully, it doesn't."

Smith does not expect the Steelers' defense to change much with Keisel out of the lineup.

"We'll run the same stuff," Smith said. "That's why you keep veterans, for circumstances like this. They can step in and not miss a beat.

"I don't think we have to adjust at all. Travis and Nick and Orpheus are very capable. The worst thing you can do is try to compensate for Keisel being gone. You just go about your business. Those guys will get job done just fine."

Eason will slide into the role as top reserve for both defensive end positions. A six-year veteran who played with Denver and Cleveland before joining the Steelers last season, Eason will be given more opportunities to make his presence felt on the defense.

"I'm typically the left end, the right end and something else. I'm the wherever guy," Eason said. "I just go out and play. It's good. I can play both sides with my hand down because some guys can't do that. It's good I can do that and also contribute on special teams. It's good to be able to be out there on the field and contribute and be part of the team."

Roye, signed in the middle of training camp because the coaches were unhappy with the depth at defensive end, will dress for the first time this season. He played for the Steelers for four years at the beginning of his career and spent the past eight years with Cleveland.

"I feel good about it," he said. "When you have veteran guys who have started and have been around the league, it's to your advantage because when someone goes down, they can step in and the defense will stay strong. If you stay consistent, things will just keep flowing.

"You could have young guys or veteran guys. You just need guys to step up and make plays. You have to have guys behind the starters who can go in [and] fill that position as if he was a starter."

Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.
First published on September 19, 2008 at 12:00 am

09-20-2008, 02:57 PM
I really would have liked to see them sign Dre Moore off Tampa's PS. They are trying to make Moore a interior 4-3 DT and I think he would be better suited in our system for a 3-4 DE.

We need some young bodies soon.