By Christina Rivers
During the game against the New Orleans Saints, defensive end Brett Keisel was forced to leave the field following a play. His face was painted in an expression of pain. Holding his arm, Keisel was attended to on the sidelines, but was unable to return to the game. The injury revealed itself to be a sginificant triceps tear that will require surgery and a period of rehabilitation that finalizes Keisel’s 2014 season.
On Monday, the Steelers announced they had placed Keisel on the injured-reserved list and brought in veteran journeyman Clifton Geathers to take Keisel’s spot on the 53-man roster. Geathers was a sixth-round draft selection in 2010 by the Cleveland Browns. The 6-foot-8, 325 pound end has played in only 37 career games over five seasons. After being released by Cleveland, Geathers played for the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys in 2010. In 2012 he moved to the Indianapolis Colts, then played in all 16 games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. This season, Geathers played six games with the Washington Redskins before being released. On his career, Geathers has 17 tackles and a single sack.
Keisel was brought back to Pittsburgh on August 20 to sign a contract with the Steelers after flying to Arizona to meet with the Cardinals. He had missed the offseason programs and minicamps and was expected to be a temporary fix for rookies Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers until they were prepared to step into starting roles. Tuitt and McCullers didn’t progress as quickly as was expected, giving Keisel an opportunity to not only show that he still had the fire to play, but to lead. An emotional player, Keisel was a major contributor to the Steelers’ defensive line. In his 13th season in the league, Keisel was in the top three of Steelers defensive linemen with a total of 19 tackles, 12 quarterback pressures and six passes defensed. His leadership on and off the field was even more valuable.
Pittsburgh has some real issues to deal with ahead of their road game against the Cincinnati Bengals and the defensive line will be a focal point. All season, the Steelers have seen either their offense or defense play better in games, but seldom have both units played at the same level. Without an effective pass rush, more pressure will be on a soft defensive backfield that has seen its share of injuries. While McCullers has progressed more quickly than Tuitt, both youngsters will be pushed this week to take those positions they were supposed to own before this period in 2014. Geathers has been placed into a backup role, listed as the sixth and final defensive lineman on the roster.
Steelers fans have tried to be patient watching Tuitt and McCullers progress, but that patience will be tested as Pittsburgh moves into the final stretch of the regular season. Cam Thomas will also be expected to improve the consistency in his play. Fans are also saddened at the news that Keisel will not be on the field, his number ’99’ and famous beard prominent. Keisel leaves a void that many fans feel cannot be filled. Some remain optimistic that his leadership has rubbed off on the young men who played with him. Keisel will long be honored by Steelers fans, and although it is premature to say that his NFL career is over, fans continue to pour support to him and his family while offering hope that their beloved team can get it together and play to the same level Keisel provided; emotionally and physically.
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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on