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fordfixer
09-20-2008, 09:57 PM
Kirschke fights back into Steelers' starting luneup

By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Saturday, September 20, 2008 12:27 AM EDT
http://www.timesonline.com/articles/200 ... 973089.txt (http://www.timesonline.com/articles/2008/09/20/sports/steelers/doc48d47a9f2dcf5718973089.txt)

PITTSBURGH — During the winter, Travis Kirschke seriously considered quitting. He loved football, but a chronically achy back had him thinking retirement.

But as he pondered his future from his home in Denver, Colo., Kirschke realized that he’d miss playing for the Steelers, even as a backup defensive end.

Ultimately, he decided to return.

The Steelers are glad he did.

Now that Brett Keisel will be sidelined indefinitely with a strained calf, Kirschke is the temporary starter at right defensive end.

“Dealing with my back … I just wanted to step away and think what would be best for my back,” he said. “But after being home for awhile, I decided I didn’t want to be home (during football season).”

After opting to keep playing, Kirschke signed a two-year contract with the Steelers worth $2.28 million, a $300,000 signing bonus included.

Kirschke has basically been a career backup throughout his 12 seasons. In six years with the Lions, he started just 10 games. He did start 15 games for the 49ers in 2003. But since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s made just six starts.

Kirschke will make his seventh on Sunday against the Eagles.

“I hate to get more playing time at the expense of a good teammate and a good friend,” said Kirschke, who’s managed to play in 73 straight games despite that sore back, which often bothers him and limits him at practice.

“Brett’s a great player and a great guy. But when someone goes down, I have to step in. That’s why I’m here. I look forward to the challenge. I feel good.”

At 34, Kirschke is the third-oldest player on the roster. The oldest Steelers are punter Mitch Berger (36) and reserve defensive end Orpheus Roye (35).

“It helps when you have guys who have been there and done that,” Kirschke said. “Losing Brett is tough. He’s a big, athletic guy who makes plays. But between me, Nick and Orpheus, we have to step up and fill that gap.”

This is the second time in two years that Kirschke will be replacing an injured starter.

Last year when left defensive Aaron Smith missed six games with separate knee and triceps injuries, Kirschke started five times.

“If you watched him last year, Travis played well,” backup nose tackle Chris Hoke said. “Brett going down is a tough loss. He brings a lot of athleticism to our defense. But I have no doubts about Travis being able to play that position and play it well.

“Not only is Travis a good player, but he’s also a good friend. So I was happy for see him come back this year. We need him for situations like this. We need him right now.”