Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Released defensive lineman Brett Keisel makes a triumphant return to the team...again.
Why it will happen: Stop me if you've heard this song and dance before: The Steelers need quality depth along the defensive line. Certainly sounds a lot like the situation the team saw themselves in 2014 before re-signing Brett Keisel mid-way through the preseason. The scenario could play itself out again in 2015 when looking at the positional depth along the defensive line. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are slated to start at both end positions, but after those two players they lack players who are NFL ready and capable.
Cam Thomas and Clifton Geathers will be battling for the No. 3 spot on the team's depth chart, but after those two veterans there isn't much proven talent on the team's roster. L.T. Walton was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and Ethan Hemer will look to make the 53-man roster after spending 2014 on the team's practice squad.
What does this all mean? An aging Keisel could be a better option than inexperienced options, just as was the case in 2014. Keisel knows the system, and proved in 2014 he can still play at a high level. With Tuitt claiming the starting position, Keisel could return at a low cost, and would be able to fill in as needed and not necessarily as a starter as he was last season.
Why it won't happen: As the defense gets younger, many would find it to be foolish for the team to bring in an aging veteran like Keisel. Not only would it be risky bringing in an aging veteran, but also a player who is coming off a season ending triceps injury which had to be surgically repaired last season.
Keisel did show flashes of his former self in 2014, but bringing Keisel back certainly would be contradictory to what the team is trying to do on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are the 'old and slow' defenders, and in are the 'young and athletic' defenders. With this being the prerequisite for the Keith Butler defense, Keisel doesn't necessarily mesh with such a philosophy.
Aaron Smith, who dominated along the line for years in Pittsburgh, suffered a very similar triceps injury when nearing the end of his career, and he was never the same afterwards. When a defensive lineman is required to stand up offensive lineman and push them backwards, losing the strength in a triceps renders the player to almost be playing with one arm.
Despite Keisel's effectiveness in 2014, after his injury there is no guarantee he will be effective in 2015.
Keys: If this scenario were to become reality, the timing would be almost identical to 2014. The Steelers won't be calling Keisel prior to training camp, not until they realize what they have, or don't have, along the defensive line in training camp. If they like what they see from Tuitt, Heyward, Thomas, Geathers, Walton and company, Keisel's phone might never ring. However, as was the case in 2014, if the team looks at their defensive line and sees nothing but gaping holes mid-way through the preseason, Keisel's phone certainly may ring. Will we see No. 99 and 'Da Beard' back in the black and gold for one more season? Only time will tell.