PITTSBURGH -- Brett Keisel is in his 12th season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but recent developments have forced the 35-year-old defensive end to start thinking about his future.
Keisel, who is in the final year of his contract, has missed four games this season with a foot injury. He played all 16 games last fall, but missed two in 2011, five in 2010, one in 2009 and six in 2008. So, his future might not be with the Steelers.
With two games remaining, Keisel could sway the Steelers to keep him another year by performing well in them. He also could be auditioning for a spot on another roster. But, most importantly, he has a chance to get back on the field after missing parts or all of the past five games. Keisel started at Baltimore Thanksgiving night, but suffered a setback and lasted just eight snaps.
"It's good to be back out there with my teammates and get back to work,'' Keisel said. "I don't know, (but) I think it could have happened, even if I would have waited. So, I'm glad it happened, but that I was still able to come back. It's possible that I could play this week, but I've done enough standing around. I'm a worker bee. (And) it's just a matter of getting back to feeling normal again.''
Keisel believed he had to push it in practice to get an idea if he could withstand the intensity of game conditions, but one could tell that he was eager to play in the club's final two regular-season games. The Steelers (6-8) visit Green Bay (7-6-1) Sunday and play host to the Cleveland Browns Dec. 29 at Heinz Field. Keisel practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, but improved Friday and is listed as probable for the game.
"He's been getting a little better every week,'' Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I think he's in a more positive frame of mind, just being around him. I really think that he feels he's got a real legitimate shot. We'll see. The fact that he has limited stiffness, which you would expect.''
Keisel noted that among his reasons for playing again was his contract status.
"I also wanted to go down fighting with my teammates,'' Keisel said. "Whatever happens, I wanted to be out there with them and doing my job. (So), I feel good, like I could still play, but we'll see what happens. Our trainers have done a good job getting me ready, and I feel better. So, I think we'll be ready to go.''
As far as Keisel's future with the Steelers, he wasn't able to say what he would do if he doesn't return to the club that drafted him in the seventh round in 2002. But Keisel realized that the Steelers could make the decision for him like they did with Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke.
"That's the nature of this business,'' Keisel said. "(And) whatever happens I'm grateful for my time here. I'm grateful for the success that we've had on this team. (And) I want to go out on a positive note. Of course, it would be tough to move on. I bleed black and gold. I'm a Yinzer. I love this city. I plan on raising my family here. So, it's going to be a tough decision when it's made.''
Keisel noted that he'll consult his family to make the final decision.
"I love being a Steeler, and I love being part of this locker room,'' Keisel added. "It's been awesome, and I hope we can keep it going. You hate thinking it can come to an end. But I've got a lot of great memories, and I think we can build fond memories every day here. That's been the best part.''
- 5 questions with SB Nation's Packers' blog, Acme Packing Company
- Play Money: Exploring Steelers ILBs and NFL salary cap
- Gary Pomerantz, author of "Their Life's Work," helps connect the 1970s Steelers teams to today
- Haley, quarterbacks have dinner, Landry Jones pays
- Steelers injury report: Keisel limited, everyone else goes full
- The Standard is The Standard: Steelers pre-Week 16 show