PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Steelers will play their final game of the regular season on Sunday.
But it might also be the final regular season game for a few veteran players.
It’s really one of the more thankless jobs in football.
Defensive linemen in the Steelers’ system have to be unselfish. Their job is to draw double teams and attention so the linebackers are free to make plays.
They’re evaluated by the team’s success. Brett Keisel has obviously been good at what he does.
More than 100 team wins and two Super Bowl rings prove as much in his time with the Steelers. It’s been a great run that may come to an end Sunday afternoon.
You don’t make it 11 years in the NFL without understanding your surroundings. You also don’t make it 11 years with the same team without knowing how to be a good teammate.
Keisel knows the stakes this weekend against Cleveland. He knows younger players are following his lead. It would take much more than a painful foot injury to keep him out of Heinz Field Sunday.
“I’m going to play,” said Keisel. “I was fortunate enough to make it through good last week and just continue on the rise in that regard.”
That determination never changes. But it would be naïve to think Keisel hasn’t given a second thought to whether this is the final time he and his beard take the field as a Steeler.
“It’s possible,” he said. “I’m an older guy and that’s the nature of the business, so I’m going to go out and have fun and enjoy going into Heinz Field again and whatever happens, you know, we’ll deal with it.”
But how do you keep that from being your focus? How do you block out what could be the end of the only job you’ve ever had, the only thing besides your family that has been a part of every day of your last 11 years?
“Well, go out and understand you still have an opportunity to go out and play with your guys, even if it is the last time, you’ve got to make it count,” Keisel said. “There will be changes, there always is in this business. The locker room is different after every year. I’m just looking forward to going out there and being able to go out and compete with my brothers that I have in there.”
Keisel is still effective and feels there’s still something left in the tank; so if it’s not the Steelers, there should be some opportunities out there.
Whether he pursues them or not, only time will tell.
Either way, he’s been quoted several times as saying Pittsburgh is the place he plans to call home.