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Kaboly: What does the Keisel signing really mean?

-- Chaz Palla Photo Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

— Chaz Palla Photo
Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

The Five Ws – who, what, where, when and why.

You learn that in the first day of J-School.

When the Steelers announced that they’ve signed veteran Brett Keisel, I applied the Five Ws, and quickly came up with four answers.

Who: Brett Keisel

What: Signed a two-year contract

Where: Pittsburgh

When: Aug. 20

Why: Hmmmmmm …

Why is the question that rushes right to the forefront of the Keisel signing, now doesn’t it?

Why did the Steelers feel the need to bring back Keisel when they drafted Stephon Tuitt in the second round and signed free agent Cam Thomas to a 2-year, $4 million deal in the offseason to pair with the established Cam Heyward?

On the surface, it makes no sense.

The only thing that bringing Keisel back would do is stunt the growth and cut the playing time of Tuitt.

That statement is true today as it was last week.

But if the Steelers use Keisel correctly, and I assume they will, there really is no downside.

Let’s dismiss right from the start that Keisel was brought in because of the play of Tuitt. That’s not true.

One of the reasons Keisel is with the Steelers today has a lot to do with Thomas and the depth at nose tackle.

Remember, Thomas is learning the defensive end position and it’s been a little rocky going when it comes to gap integrity. I think he will be serviceable at that position, but it might take a couple more weeks.

The issue is at nose tackle.

The Steelers have Steve McLendon and really nobody else (right now) who they feel comfortable sliding into the spot other than Thomas. Daniel McCullers will eventually be leaned on, but not now, not this year (unless an emergency).

Keisel gives the Steelers the option to move Thomas to nose tackle for rotational purposes or even in case of an injury to McLendon.

The other reason is that the Steelers are an injury to a defensive end away from really being in a bind.

Mike Tomlin was burned last year not having a capable and ready backup to fill in at running back and inside linebacker in case of injury. He learned his lesson and is not about to make that mistake again.

Brian Arnfelt hasn’t made the jump that the organization was hoping and Josh Mauro, although talented, isn’t nearly ready to be counted on in a game day situation.

Yet another reason for the Keisel signing.

This is how I anticipate it playing out: Heyward, Keisel, Thomas and sometimes Tuitt will rotate in the base 3-4 defense; Thomas will spell McLendon at nose tackle; and Heyward, Tuitt and Keisel will rotate in the nickel as the two defensive linemen.

Defensive line coach John Mitchell loves to rotate and now he can.

Oh yeah, Keisel is a pretty good clubhouse guy, can help the youngsters and came cheap, so why not?

I didn’t think it would happen, but the Steelers are better off now than they were a day ago without Keisel.




Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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