Brett Keisel took a flight to Arizona yesterday with the intentions of signing a two year deal with the Cardinals, only to get off the plane and have a text from his agent Eric Metz that the Steelers have a deal on the table to resign him. Funny how things work out.
The Steelers made the signing of Keisel official this morning, announcing Keisel has agreed to a two year deal. To make room for Keisel, the Steelers released Al Lapuaho. “There really is no place like here, no place like home. It was tough, just the unknown. For them to give me the opportunity to come back means a lot to me and I can’t wait to get back to work,” Keisel said via Steelers.com. “I still have a little time to not only get to know these men I am going to go to battle with, but just get back into football stuff. I feel great. I have been training my tail off with the thought that I am going to be back. It looks like all of that training has paid off.”
What does the Keisel signing mean for the Steelers defensive line?
The Steelers this off-season decided to move Cam Heyward over to right defensive end to take Keisel’s old starting job, despite playing dominant football on the left side in the second half of last season. Rookie Stephon Tuitt and swing d-lineman Cam Thomas have been splitting time at left defensive end.
Tuitt has showed great flashes, while word inside the organization is Cam Thomas has graded out well in two preseason games from Steelers coaches at defensive end and nose tackle.
If Keisel’s going to have an opportunity earn back his starting job, it’s going to mean the Steelers will have to move Heyward back to left defensive end.
Heyward has been inconsistent on the right side, especially against the run, and that remains a possibility, but Tuitt has played mainly on the left side so far. Going to be interesting how the dominos fall.
If anything, the Keisel signing shores up the Steelers depth.
Rookie Daniel McCullers projects to make the 53-man roster because of his upside but year one will likely be nothing more than a developmental year and he’s unlikely to be active on game days as he’s nowhere near ready to contribute.
Behind Heyward, Tuitt, McLendon, and Thomas, the Steelers had no ideal options to step into the rotation if needed.
Tuitt, McLendon, Heyward, Thomas, Keisel, and McCullers (Not a lock) all project to make the 53-man roster. If the Steelers are to carry seven d-linemen, Pittsburgh will have a decision whether to keep a 5th defensive end in Josh Mauro or fill the need to have more depth at defensive tackle putting Hebron Fangupo in the picture to make the team again.
Mauro has showed good upside at right defensive end and the Steelers might feel he’s too risky to keep on the practice squad all year.