Punter Brian Moorman may be the longest tenured NFL veteran on the Pittsburgh Steelers off-season roster, but no one has been a member of the team longer than defensive end Brett Keisel.
Keisel joined the Steelers as a seventh round draft pick in 2002. He became a full-time starter in 2006 after Kimo Von Oelhoffen left for the New York Jets in free agency following the 2005 Super Bowl championship season.
Keisel at the age of 35 is participating in his 12th, and possibly last NFL training camp as postulated by ESPN AFC North writer Jamison Hensley. Keisel is playing the final season on his contract this year, and with first-round draft choice Cameron Heyward waiting in the wings, Keisel may not receive a new contract from Pittsburgh should he not retire following the season.
"I was driving up here [Tuesday] and you don’t know what’s going to happen. I stopped and smelled the flowers a little more."
Keisel has been a part of two Super Bowl winning teams, and the team who made the championship game in 2010 only to lose to the Green Bay Packers. While Keisel is not ruling out a possible return in 2014, he is solely focused on leading the Steelers back to the 'big game' one last time in 2013.
"I’m focused not on my contract or this could be my last year. I’m focused on leading this group of young men back down glory road."
Keisel led the team in quarterback pressures in 2012 with 40. Even starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons sees no drop-off in Keisel's game in his advanced age, speculating Keisel has been drinking from the fountain of youth.
"I always see him in the weight room. I don't feel like age is bothering him right now. He has some type of youth juice. He's doing real good for us right now."
Fans of 'The Beard' will have to wait until after the 2013 season to find out if it was Keisel's last in a Steelers jersey, if not the NFL altogether.
"I feel like as long as I can play and as long as I can carry out my responsibility and lead, I could play longer. But we’ll see what happens."
Keisel has three more chances to smell the flowers in Latrobe before camp breaks for the remainder of the preseason. Steelers fans will be hoping his leadership will return their team to glory one last time.
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