Da Beard. Steelers fans know exactly who I mean. He is beloved. He is admired. He is part of the heart and soul that makes up the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’s Brett Keisel. He’s not a native of the city of Pittsburgh but he’s among the governing body of Steeler Nation.
This isn't going to be an article about how he was re-signed and how happy we are because he can mentor a group of young guys who need a leader like Brett Keisel. This is about celebrating the return of a player who has paid respect to a nation of fans for over a decade.
I feel like the people we give nicknames to are like our family. Don’t you have nicknames for your best friends? I am not talking about the people we hate and use "code names" for like "stage five clinger" and such. I am talking about the people you hold dearest to you. The people who make you laugh and smile and lift you up. The people like Brett Keisel.
I am disappointed we did not get to see what kind of "sweet" ride he would come through on this year at training camp. It’s stuff like that which we look forward to. He makes us laugh, which is sometimes just as important as highlight reels.
We all knew Da Beard before it became a national marketing ad. He is ours. It is personal.
Keisel is the guy we let into our homes every Sunday and root for daily. The guy we rejoice with when he does something amazing and get emotional with when he is injured.
He has the ability to lead us as fans. When he runs out of the tunnel, his arms in the air, beard flowing in hairy glory, we scream as loud as he is.
He feels with us. When Heath Miller was being treated on the ground at Heinz Field in Week 16 of 2012 against Cincinnati, he carried all of us out with him to the field to help Miller into the locker room. Keisel did what we all wanted to do ourselves.
In my mind that is the mark of a great man. One who does not act above the rest because he is an "athlete" but rather the guy that feels like your oldest friend. He may even be the guy who makes sure we get a beer when we walk into his home. Everyone likes that guy.
Guys like him are overlooked far too often. He isn't glitzy and full of glamour. Keisel is a man, and he’s a football player. He may be revered as more than those things but plenty of professional athletes achieve more fame for being far less connected with his or her community. The connection he’s created with fans is why he’s special and unique.
He’s a grinder. He is hard-nosed football. He is Steelers football. And we’re glad he’s back.