End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Brett Keisel
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 13 Years
Though Brett Keisel was not re-signed in 2014 in order to resume a starting role along the defensive line for the Steelers, he nonetheless wound up playing a very prominent part in the defense, and wound up playing more than Cam Thomas, the defensive end who replaced him in the starting lineup.
Even early in the season, in fact, the Steelers rotated in Keisel liberally, playing 42 of 68 snaps in the season opener, as an example. He played even more the following week, but his snap counts did fluctuate depending on the game circumstances.
That had largely to do with how much the Steelers used their nickel defense, since Keisel tended to replace Thomas as a pass-rushing end or tackle in the two down linemen look. His pass rush had long been his strong suit, and that continued to be true in 2014.
Though he only managed to record one sack on the year, he did generate pressure on a comparatively consistent basis, and knocked several quarterbacks to the ground throughout the year. He even recorded a freak interception, the second of his career, and batted down a handful of passes.
While Keisel seemed to grow a bit more comfortable, and play a bit better, as the season wore on, however, it was also evident that he is not the Pro Bowl player that he was a few years ago, and that a greater role in the defense would likely have negatively impacted his effectiveness on the field.
Already it was evident that he was struggling to contain the run or to work through blocks, particularly in the first half of the season, which is a trend that had carried over from the previous season.
All of that saving his body for a playoff run, however, went for nothing when his season ended prematurely, getting his arm caught under a pile and suffering an injury that left him on injured reserve.
The injury merely adds further uncertainty about his future. Although he still has a year left on his two-year contract, the Steelers will have to begin discussions soon about the future of the few veteran players remaining on the roster, some of whom more successfully contributed to the cause than others.