The media, in the form of news outlets and bloggers alike, has already spent a great deal of ink and bandwidth heaping both praise and condemnation on the star players within the Steelers franchise. Google Troy Polamalu and you've get about 623,000 hits, or take Ben Roethlisberger for 1,590,000. But apply the mighty Goog to a name like Brett Keisel or Larry Foote and the results are... shall we say... "unfulfilling".
So, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine the play of Pittsburgh's lesser known players. These are The Unmentionables: players who don't get a lot of press. My hope is that the comments section will provide insight into these players as well as the responsibilities of the positions where they play. Besides, we still have a week to fill before the big game...
In this edition of The Unmentionables, I hope to spark some discussion about Brett "Diesel" Keisel.
Now, before I get started, I'll be the first to say that I don't know much about Mr. Keisel. (I had a dream last night where I called him Diesel and he delivered a purple nurple to my pancreas. So, "Mr. Keisel" it is!) Given my limited expertise, digging up dirt on the big man started as something of an academic exercise. I'll begin with a short overview of those basics.
At age 30, Mr Keisel is listed at 6'5" and 285 lbs. He was a 7th round draft pick (2002) and has worked his way to a starter position at Defensive End. His most productive years were 2006 and 2007 where he started in all 32 games. However, productivity in the years before and after has suffered at the hands of the injury gods. In 2008, he missed a good chunk of the season (6 games).
Then again, maybe his lack of productivity results from another problem. Perhaps he's simply not that good. Let's take a look.
One source informs me the Steelers organization brought in Mr. Keisel with the goal of developing him into a strong pass rusher. Over the years, that achievement has never materialized. Match-ups (like this) suggest that he owns a full complement of skills, but not a great deal of speed or power. Against the Ravens, he did a nice bit of pushing, but he also got backed up a number of time. One play in his favor is the first Woodley sack. Keisel pushes two members of the O-line into the pocket creating a wall that pins Flacco in place. Mr. Keisel sets him up, the Wookie knocks 'em down. I've read mention of him using a "swim move", which is something I'd never heard before. I had to go back and watch the game versus SD to see it in action. Sure enough, swim move is the perfect description.
At 6'5" tall with orangutan arms, I'd like to see Mr. Keisel batting down more passes. Like the one he graciously deflected for Rivers - transforming Sproles' excellent punt return into a game footnote rather than points. The highlight reel for Mr. Keisel shows a few bats, but highlight reels are... well... only the highlights.
I'll allow those better equipped to pick apart line-play add more ammunition to the discussion, but I am left with a few questions. Is he a good player who goes unnoticed on a great team? I mean, Aaron Smith gets over-looked. Would Mr. Keisel be more effective in a 4-3 defense with less need for him to produce pressure all by his onesie? Obviously, not every position can be filled with a superstar. So, can we reasonably expect to find someone better?
I'll go on record as a fan who likes Mr. Keisel... as long as he stays away from my tender parts. He's got balance. He doesn't excel in any one area, but, at a cursory glance, he seems to be minding his responsibilities effectively. Diesel engines aren't sexy, fast, or clean, but you can find them in all sorts of applications: cars, boats, planes, etc. Mr. Keisel is something like that. A player we can squeeze under the hood of just about any play.