Brett Keisel, DE #99
Hometown: Greybull, Wyoming
College: Brigham Young
Experience: 11 years
When you think of “Mr. Irrelevant” in football, that usually means a spot on ESPN during the draft, and a warm body to fill training and mini camps during the summer, before the bags are packed for home.
Eleven years ago, the Steelers’ defensive lineman was just three picks shy of becoming inconsequential. But Brett Keisel has proven himself by making the Pro Bowl and earning his spot in two Super Bowls. Keisel has also become a leader and a role model to his teammates.
“They are calling me the old general, but it’s great. I’ve been hearing that for a long time even when I wasn’t old,” Keisel said. “I feel so lucky. I’ve been here my whole career, so watching some of these younger guys take a more predominant role and watching them grow, that’s what the Steelers are all about.”
The son of a fur trapper, Keisel is a mountain man of sorts, and while his “Grizzly Adams” appearance to some might be scary, for Steeler
nation it has become a staple and “Da Beard” seems to give the Steelers strength like Hercules’ hair did.
A fan favorite, Keisel also has become a leader in the Steelers lockers, and this year he was named defensive captain, replacing James Farrior, one of a number of key veterans released this off-season. Some say that change means the dawn of a new age for the Steelers as the youth movement has begun. Keisel sees it in a different manner and isn’t ready to turn the page on an era bettered only by the 1970s Steelers.
There is more than football and Da Beard to Keisel, though. He is a true ambassador to the city of Pittsburgh. Take training camp this year. While most players like their rest after a long day of practice, Keisel payed homage to his fans by signing free autographs at a local restaurant called Dinos in Latrobe.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. His involvement in the community is what makes him to many an Angel.
The first year of “the beard,” Keisel put on an event called “Shear the Beard” after the season, and it raised over $40,000 for UPMC Children’s Hospital. During the spring he took a group of people fishing, all for charity, and this summer he helped make the wish of a young boy, Brandon Bawdy, who has a rare form of cancer come true.
If those aren’t touching, there is even more to Da Beard.
He is highly involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and also a program in Pittsburgh called Champions for Children, which is an event to help with the educational needs of homeless children.
So it should come as no surprise that last year he was named the Steelers Walter Payton player of the year.
Keisel has been dealing with a high ankle sprain, but is expected to play in the opener against Denver on Sunday night.
Matt Pawlikowski is a freelance writer covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.