Brett Keisel, his famous beard neatly trimmed, beat most Steelers veterans to their training facility on the South Side Tuesday morning for his physical. One vet, though, led all to the front door that had been locked to them since March 12 -- linebacker James Harrison.
"That's how he is," Keisel said. "He's one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around in my life, which is why he's one of the best players I've ever been around in my life. He just has that type of character, so it will be good to get back to work with him."
Steelers rookies and veterans alike began taking their physicals Tuesday and will continue to do so Wednesday as the team tries to get most if not all of the medical stuff done before the players report to Saint Vincent College Thursday. By the time they are in Latrobe and together on a football field for the first time since their Super Bowl loss to Green Bay Feb. 6, Keisel believes there will be no residue from Harrison's magazine comments that were slightly critical of teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall.
"I think his words got misinterpreted," Keisel said. "Mix and match quotes maybe. I haven't talked to James about it or to Ben about it or to Rashard about it. I think all those guys know that James would never do something like that to criticize his own teammates I don't think. I think it just got misinterpreted, and we'll move forward."
Keisel can't wait to get to his 10th training camp and sixth as their starting right defensive end. He believes his veteran-laden defense will not skip a beat after leading the NFL last season in many categories.
"I think we're one of those teams that can go to camp and be on the practice field the next day and be able to run our whole defense really. A lot of us have been here for a long time, really so, hopefully, that's going to be a benefit for us."
Despite the lack of supervision by coaches or training staff during the past 41/2 months, Keisel believes virtually all of his teammates will report to Saint Vincent College in good physical condition.
"I'm sure we'll have a few guys that will be out of shape maybe, but there's plenty of guys on this team that are hungry and want to get back to the Super Bowl again and understand that it takes a good offseason of training and getting your body ready to go again. I have confidence in our team that they've done that."
That Super Bowl loss "still stings a little bit."
"When you have an opportunity like that and have won two, it's hard to be on the other side of it," Keisel said. "But, hopefully, it's made us all hungry and driven and, hopefully, we'll be able to get back on that big stage again."
Because of the lost practice time in the spring and the inability to learn from coaches and the veterans, the rookies will have a more difficult time at Saint Vincent, said Keisel.
"This whole thing for the rookies, they're behind the eight-ball big time because that's basically all OTAs and coaching sessions are for, for those guys to get up to speed with the playbook so when they get to camp we can hit the ground running. It's going to be different. We're going to have to slow everything down.
"We're just installing now with these guys, so their heads are not only going to be spinning because they're in full-speed training camp, but because they're trying to learn their plays at the same time. There's going to be a learning curve, I'm sure. But, at the same time there's no time to rest, no time to screw up, so they've got to get it down now. Their jobs are depending on it."