View Full Version : Kiesel's times sadly comes to anend

12-02-2014, 12:48 PM

By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There was sadness in Ike Taylor's voice. It had nothing to do with the fact he played a lousy game Sunday in the Steelers' 35-32 loss to the New Orleans Saints. It had everything to do with teammate Brett Keisel's left triceps injury, which ended Keisel's season and likely his long NFL career.

"He's a Yinzer. He's a Pittsburgh Steeler. He's Mr. 412 or Mr. 724 or whatever you want to call him. That's Brett Keisel," Taylor said.

"We lost a good one. Now, we've got to go out and win for him. He's my brother. I want to win for him. All of us want to win these last four games for him."

Defensive end Cam Heyward was across the locker room saying virtually the same thing, almost with tears in his eyes. "I know how much Keis sacrificed to come back this season. I know what he does to take care of his body. I hate that he has to go out like that."

Safety Troy Polamalu, who always speaks softly, spoke in barely a whisper when asked what he said to Keisel on the sideline after Keisel was injured in the third quarter. "You can't say much to a guy to make a difference in that situation. He cares so much about this team and this organization. It's tough."

Heyward has sat in the same meeting room with Keisel since joining the Steelers as their No. 1 draft pick in 2011. Taylor and Polamalu have been with Keisel a lot longer. "Twelve years," Polamalu said. "Twelve years, I've sat next to him on the bench. Twelve years of games and training camps ... "

There almost certainly won't be a 13th.

That's the brutal reality of the NFL. "It's a young man's game," Taylor said. Time runs out on even the greatest players. "Every one of us knows we're going to have to cross that bridge one day," former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote once said. Another former linebacker, James Farrior, said it best: "We're all on deck."

Some leave the game because of injuries. Terry Bradshaw's elbow went bad. Jack Lambert had a turf toe problem. Others are released and try to play elsewhere. Sadly, Franco Harris ended his career with the Seattle Seahawks. Just as sadly, Mike Webster finished with the Kansas City Chiefs. The majority of players are pushed into retirement, many before they are ready. Only a precious few get to go out on their terms, even fewer on top. Jerome Bettis parked the bus in Detroit after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, walked into retirement with a huge smile on his face and never looked back.

Now that's the way to do it.

"Everyone wants to go out with a bang," Taylor said. "Not too many get to do it."

Keisel knew this day was coming. It's safe to say he thought about it from time to time. How could he not think about it? He watched great teammates, great friends -- guys with whom he shared the defensive huddle -- leave the Steelers. Joey Porter. Casey Hampton. Deshea Townsend. Farrior. Foote. ... He watched best pal Aaron Smith's career end in 2011 because of a neck injury.

Keisel hurt for all of 'em.

"We've been together for a third of our lives," he said after Smith's injury. "During the season, we spend more time with each other than we do with our families."

Now, a lot of people are hurting for Keisel. It's sad to think we've probably seen the last of "Da Beard," at least on the Heinz Field lawn. Keisel had become such a fan favorite. No player has been more active in local charity work and community service. Keisel might be a mountain man from Wyoming, but he found a home for life in Pittsburgh.

It's pretty sad for the players, too. Keisel was a huge presence -- literally and figuratively -- in the locker room. That's why many teammates planned to stop to see him Sunday night on their way home from the game. By now, virtually all have reached out to him.

"It's not about trying to comfort him. It's about being there for him," Taylor said. "There's real brotherly love there. When you win Super Bowls with guys, there's a bond that lasts forever."

Keisel surely delivered the same message to the guys that Smith delivered to him.

"Listen, bro, I don't want any pity parties."

The other players are throwing one this week for Keisel, anyway. They know how much he loves football. They know how much he loved playing for the Steelers.

"The feeling I get in my stomach coming out through the tunnel on game day is indescribable," Keisel said a few weeks ago. "I won't be able to get that after I'm done playing. It's impossible."

Or maybe not.

"I guess I can hunt grizzly bears with a knife," Keisel once said.

What a rush that will be for Keisel. For the bears, not so much.

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Cook and Poni" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.

12-02-2014, 02:30 PM
What a bummer. He is one of my fav's from the old cowher era team, he will be sorely missed.

12-02-2014, 06:22 PM
I hate to see anyone go out like this. he was definately one of the best #6 round picks ever. Right up there with Greg Lloyd and A. Brown.

We seem to get good value in the 6th round.