Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel (99) pressures New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) in the first quarter of the NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 in Pittsburgh. Brees got away. (Don Wright, AP / FR87040 AP)
Brett Keisel went to high school in Wyoming and college in Utah. But after 13 seasons with the Steelers …
“He's a ‘yinzer,' ” longtime teammate Ike Taylor said on the day Keisel's season officially ended.
The Steelers placed the 36-year-old defensive end on injured reserve after he suffered an injury to his left triceps late in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints.
“Keisel is the (quintessential) Pittsburgher,” Taylor said. “Blue-collar, hardworking, come-from-the-bottom kind of guy. He's one of the definitions of living and being a ‘yinzer' in Pittsburgh.
“So when you lose a guy like that, you're losing a lot, not only from an on-the-field standpoint, but off the field. He's very much loved off the field as much as on the field.”
The longest–tenured active Steeler and one of seven players left on the roster who won Super Bowls with the team after the 2005 and '08 seasons, Keisel's future is in doubt. Keisel regained his starting job at right defensive end as this season progressed after he signed late in training camp Aug. 20.
On Monday, the chair at Keisel's locker at the Steelers' South Side practice facility was folded up and inside the locker. Keisel wasn't seen in the facility, although one of his protégés, Cameron Heyward, said he had spoken to him.
“He just wants to keep battling for us. He's going to be there for us,” the Steelers' other starting defensive end said. “(Stinks) he can't be on the field, but he's going to lend his knowledge to the younger guys and myself, so he's going to continue to be involved. But it's tough to lose a guy like that.
“We can't replicate what he does for us.”
Keisel was drafted by the Steelers in 2002, became a regular with them during their Super Bowl-winning season of 2005 and was a starter from 2006-13. Keisel appeared in all 12 games this season, making his fourth start Sunday. A seventh-round pick in 2002, Keisel has 30 sacks in 156 games.
Keisel, who also has played tackle this season, was in pain as he came off the field Sunday. The Steelers soon after declared him out for the game.
“You never want to see anybody go down but especially a guy who is able to make plays and play different positions along the line,” linebacker Jason Worilds said. “Fortunately, we have some guys who will be able to step up and be ready for the task at hand.”
Cam Thomas, who started nine of the previous 12 games, figures to receive playing time vacated by Keisel, although rookie Stephon Tuitt also could get more reps at end.
To fill Keisel's roster spot, the Steelers signed defensive end Clifton Geathers, who will be joining his seventh organization in five seasons since being a sixth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2010.
Geathers has appeared in 37 career games with one start, including posting six tackles in six games this season for the Washington Redskins. The 6-foot-8, 325-pound Geathers was released Nov. 1.
Geathers' brother, Robert, is a veteran defensive end for the Bengals, whom the Steelers visit Sunday.
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