Depth is still a concern among Steelers' defensive end position
By Neal Coolong on May 31 2014
It's an issue of experience more than anything else. With some cap space coming, it's not out of the question the Steelers look to bring Brett Keisel back while the young defensive ends continue to develop.
Ziggy Hood didn't start a game in his rookie season of 2009 but that doesn't mean he didn't accomplish something rare on the Steelers' defense.
He actually played. And not just special teams, mind you. He logged no less than 16 snaps a game over the final eight games that year, filling in for an injured Aaron Smith as the Steelers' Super Bowl championship defense effort fizzled out.
The Steelers aren't defending a championship in 2014 - far from it - but they're currently faced with the same kind of choice. They can either determine rookie second round pick Stephon Tuitt is capable of playing something to the effect of 14 snaps a game at defensive end as a rookie, or they can bring in a veteran stop-gap.
And by that, of course, the inference is longtime Steelers DE Brett Keisel.
Keisel, 35, remains in free agency, and the undertone of the offseason has been Keisel could be brought back to provide depth and leadership on a defensive line that's largely been overhauled this offseason. Hood is now in Jacksonville, Al Woods is in Tennessee. Keisel's likely out hunting somewhere while the new Steelers - Tuitt and veteran Cam Thomas - join 2013 rookies Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt - as the likely main competitors for roster spots along the defensive end depth chart.
There are reasons for optimism among the attributes for all of those players, but there is a lot of unknown as well. It's tempting for the Steelers - who will get a surge of cap space June 2 when the contract of LaMarr Woodley clears their books - to consider bringing Keisel in to bridge a gap in experience.
No guarantees can, or should be given. He may not start. The clear leader from a production standpoint is Cameron Heyward, and it isn't likely Steve McLendon's starting nose tackle position will be challenged. Thomas was signed to be the utility player Woods was but could also be considered that stop-gap while the heir apparent - likely Tuitt with competition from Arnfelt and Williams - continues to develop.
Keisel looks like he is still living off his rookie signing bonus
Originally Posted by sick beats
I think it is pretty simple. If the Steelers DON'T think they have a starter opposite Heyward....Bringing back Kiesel would be an option at min. Kiesel is declining but he may be able to hold off Tuitt or Thomas for a little. I love Kiesel but personally...I would bring in Vaughn Martin if he is fully recovered from his sports hernia. He was released. He is 8 years younger & has 27 games started. Thomas's x team mate from SD. Again...Kiesel doesn't need camp & is a plug & play player in the Steelers system. He will be on the street if needed.
by Ed Bouchette
--- Brett Keisel remains a free agent and it makes just too much sense for him not to rejoin the Steelers. He might be with them now if it werenít for his balking at taking the minimum money. But as a top-tiered veteran, Keiselís minimum would be $1 million. He probably also would not have to play as many snaps as they rotate rookie Stephon Tuitt at defensive end. The Steelers remain interested in Keisel for a contract that would included a $955,000 salary plus a $65,000 signing bonus but would count only $635,000 against their cap in 2014 because of the veteran minimum salary benefit rule in the CBA.
ONE LAST HURRAH?
Jun 06, 2014
Should the Steelers re-sign Brett Keisel? Jim Wexell tries to be objective in breaking it down.
Someone asked me to put a number on whether Brett Keisel will sign with the Steelers before training camp, and in spite of the rampant optimism out there among my colleagues I had to call it 25-75 against a re-signing.
Not that I don't want him there. I would happily be wrong in this case. As I was just telling one of my old sources in the scouting department, I really, really hope the team signs Keisel.
In an attempt at full disclosure, I told my friend -- as we stood on the sideline watching practice Wednesday -- that I probably want Brett back for selfish reasons, because he wasn't just a great go-to guy for me in the locker room, he was a friend. Sure, I could always get a great quote from him, but more importantly I got insight, even wisdom, from him.
I told my friend that I'm trying to realize this personal selfishness and not let it get in the way of any good sense I may have in reporting on Keisel and whether the team should/will re-sign him.
"You're not being selfish," my friend said. "Look at all of these young guys out there. They need him in the locker room for those very same reasons."
Of course, that's a plus for those who want to bring Keisel back. But let's leave the emotion out of this and take a practical look at the situation:
* The Steelers have already moved Cameron Heyward over to the right side, the weak side, the playmaking side that Keisel called home since the 2005 championship run. And Cam is already working on the freewheeling stuff Keisel used as a pseudo-linebacker in their mixer third-down defenses. Could they move Heyward back to the strong side? Absolutely. He played well there last season. But spring is always a window into the future. If the Steelers can get away with it, they'll leave Heyward where he's at now. Strike one on Brett.
* Cam Thomas, a swing NT/DE, is starting on the strong side, the Aaron Smith side, the side opponents crash the gate as classic right-handed running teams. But Thomas isn't near the athlete Keisel is. In fact, Thomas' future here, as I see it, is to become the next Al Woods, a swing man, and you saw what the Steelers were (or weren't) willing to pay Woods this past March. They let Woods go and signed Thomas, who lost his starting job last season in San Diego. Thomas is a stop gap here, or a bridge to a future that includes Stephon Tuitt. He's their second-round pick who's not going to be ready to start the opener, or perhaps start a game at any point in this season. He impresses me in individual drills with his power and the way he can get those big arms up and into an offensive lineman's chest, and he can move well, but he's just guessing out there in scrimmages. And he looks like he needs to lose another 10 pounds, or he at least needs to get the pounds he has into shape. But until Tuitt's ready, the front office gave the coaches a younger guy in Thomas to use for the time being. Strike two.
* So they sign Keisel because Mike Tomlin has made the righteous appeal to the front office that, hey, Keisel is better than Thomas. In that sense, there's a need. But don't be fooled into thinking this is a depth issue. In fact, the Steelers have decent and intriguing depth. They could just use a better starter. But does the degree to which Keisel > Thomas supercede the need to give young players such as Brian Arnfelt, Nick Williams, Daniel McCullers and Josh Mauro a legitimate chance? Other possibilities are undrafted free agent Ethan Hemer, who rotated first team with Tuitt at rookie camp, and street free agent Al Lapuaho, who's been seeing time as a second-team tackle in the nickel. I don't want to count out undrafted Louisville rookie Roy Philon, either, before the pads come on.
As I see it the Steelers have three locks at DE and Tomlin has never kept more than five. It's possible Tomlin and DL coach John Mitchell could write off Williams because of his lengthy injury problem, and have Arnfelt and one of the others in mind for the practice squad. If the coaches have a sense that McCullers, Mauro, Hemer and/or Philon can't make it, and that Lapuaho is more nose tackle than end, then all of that adds up to an opening. But I just don't see that all happening before camp. And during camp they would have to be certain that most of these young players have no future. Nah, at best I can call this a check swing on the 0-2 pitch.
But if I'm the first-base ump, and you're appealing to me, I'm saying that Keisel didn't go and calling it a ball. So he still has his last strike. And I'm hoping that aforementioned wisdom might help him muscle a single up the middle and keep this rally alive.
Brett Keisel's experience and Minimum Salary Benefit make him a likely re-sign come August
By Neal Coolong on Jun 30 2014
If Cam Thomas provides versatility, and Stephon Tuitt provides strength and upside, Brett Keisel can provide experience and leadership at a cap price on the same level as Brian Arnfelt, thans to the league's Minimum Salary Benefit clause.
The former locker of Brett Keisel remains unoccupied within the Steelers' facility.
His No. 99 is not adorned to the chest and back of any other player.
It could be a coincidence. No one may have wanted the No. 99. Perhaps the locker has issues with mold or something else rendering it uninhabitable.
Such notions are about as realistic as prediction of Tyrod Taylor being named NFL MVP this season.
Salary cap this, draft picks that, there are specific and tangible reasons why the Steelers haven't issued Keisel's number or had a new player occupy his locker. They not only have failed to close the door on Keisel's 11 year career, it's as if they expect the longtime starting right side defensive end to come back for season No. 12.
Keisel, a player with 29 career sacks in 144 career games, will turn 36 years of age two days before the Steelers take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. He's been a part of the Steelers' roster every year since his 24th birthday in 2002. Just to put that in perspective, Keisel was a rookie observing a season-saving comeback led by Tommy Maddox, who, in relief of Kordell Stewart, led Pittsburgh past Cleveland in overtime.
Clearly, the Steelers are valuing the presence of a veteran leader in the defensive ends meetings. They may even save money in doing it.
The Minimum Salary Benefit (MSB), a clause added to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, means the Steelers could, potentially, sign Keisel to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum amount for his level of tenure ($955,000) along with a $65,000 signing bonus, and have it count as $570,000 against the 2014 salary cap.
Jason from Over The Cap explains MSB as needing three criteria:
All players with at least 4 credited seasons are eligible for the MSB. However, to qualify for MSB treatment your contract has to meet specific criteria, explained as follows:
1. The contract must only be 1 year in length
2. Additional compensation can not exceed $65,000 in 2013 (this number rises by $15,000 every 3 years, with the next increase set for 2015), and that includes bonuses from other teams
3. P5 guarantees can not exceed the P5 salary of a 2nd year player, which is $555,000 in 2013
So signing Keisel would be getting 12 years of internal experience at the cap price of a player with two years of experience. Perhaps the team is saving even more money by not bothering to rip the name plate of the No. 99 home black and road white jerseys it has on hand.
Makes perfect sense. When it comes to the end of the roster, rarely will a team sign a veteran player over a cheap player short on tenure. This levels the playing field a bit.
Signing Keisel also hedges the team's offseason bets perceived utility defensive lineman Cam Thomas and second round pick Stephon Tuitt can lock down the position on their own. The Steelers are used to the paradigm of experience at that right defensive end position. Thomas and Tuitt have exactly zero career snaps in Dick LeBeau's defense. This isn't to suggest they're poor players, but this is still a small price to pay for something no one else on the roster is able to provide.
If Thomas provides versatility, and Tuitt provides strength and upside, Keisel can provide experience and leadership at a cap price on the same level as Brian Arnfelt. That's a pretty solid bargain for a team transitioning two starting defensive ends from as recently as Week 4 of the 2013 season. Ziggy Hood was replaced by Cameron Heyward in the early goings of last year, and has since signed a free agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Keisel's return isn't a sure thing, but adding in the MSB clause, his open locker and his unassigned jersey number, there's certainly smoke even if we can't see the flames. The Steelers have around $6 million in cap space, and that number wouldn't go down much by signing Keisel to a one-year contract.
It also makes sense as to why neither the team nor Keisel are beating down the other's respective door to get a deal done. Keisel needs training camp about as much as he needs a suit and tie to go to practice, and doesn't necessarily want to take home the league minimum. Waiting for a bit into training camp to see if any injuries occur, thus increasing his demand on the open market, is a wise idea. For the Steelers, Tuitt may be a savant, capable of locking down the team's starting position from the first snap of the season through his own 12-year career.
Both seem like valid reasons for both sides to take a wait-and-see approach.
It'd be weird if they didn't. The last time Keisel was not contributing to a Steelers season-opener in some way (2001), Heinz Field was opening up.
Hall of Famer
OTA and mini camp is over and the free money from Woodley have been weeks...
Kiesel is not coming back barring injury.
He will be back. They are waiting so they don't have to pay him vet min. All signs point to him coming back.
He will be AVAILABLE because no wants is looking for an old ass 3-4 DE...
no need to sign him until we need him.
Last edited by feltdizz; 07-02-2014 at 12:55 PM.
07-01-2014, 10:58 PM
Hall of Famer
They might even wait until some of the training camp is over.. Some of these guys don't like camp. lol, especially the vets...unless he comes up with some kind of 'nagging injury' right after he signs....
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