INDIANAPOLIS — Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel acknowledged the defense will not look like the same one that lined up this past season.
There’s a strong chance that the NFL’s top-ranked defense will be forced to make several cap cuts this offseason. The likely candidates are: nose tackle Casey Hampton ($4.89 million salary in 2012), inside linebacker Larry Foote ($3 million), inside linebacker James Farrior ($2.82 million), cornerback Bryant McFadden ($2.5 million) and defensive end Aaron Smith ($2.1 million).
“It’s going to happen, I think,” said Keisel, who is in town promoting Head & Shoulders. “It’s going to be a different team. Who knows? Maybe I won’t even be here.”
Keisel added, “The game is different. It’s a young man’s game. We’re kind of going down that road right now.”
Keisel, who is scheduled to make $2.8 million in 2012, made it clear that this isn’t a rebuilding year. And he’s right.
Only two the potential cuts (Hampton and Farrior) were full-time starters last season, and the Steelers played most of the season without Smith. But the veteran depth likely will get trimmed.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a dramatic transition,” Keisel said after his appearance on Mike & Mike in the Morning. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that can play. We expect a lot out of these guys and expect them to play winning ball.”
One position of concern is right next to Keisel. Even if Hampton returns, he should be sidelined for the start of the regular season after having ACL surgery this month. Longtime backup nose tackle Chris Hoke retired last week, too.
That means the only healthy nose tackle on the roster with any experience is Steve McLendon.
“It’s going to be different,” Keisel said. “Ben [Roethlisberger] might be lining up in a three-point stance. I don’t know. We’re all going to have to focus and get ready because I really do believe we have the talent to make another run.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Keisel’s Grizzly Adams-style beard. He won’t cut it until Feb. 9, when he will do it for a charity function in Pittsburgh.
Keisel scheduled that event after the Super Bowl because he thought he would be playing in it. The overtime loss in Denver three weeks ago still stings, Keisel said.
“Just to know that you’re that close to having three rings and it not happening is hard,” he said. “I’m really proud of all the things that we overcame that year. Hopefully, we’ll be back and we can still get that seventh Super Bowl for the city of Pittsburgh.”