Brett Keisel would certainly qualify as an NFL success story. Once a seventh-round draft pick, he carved out a role for himself on special teams as a defensive lineman, which is not typically done outside of wedge work and on the field goal unit. After a few years of sticking around, he got more time on defense, and eventually entered the starting lineup. He ended up a Pro Bowler.
And an instrumental player in a couple of teams that went to the Super Bowl. Recently honored by Mel Blount’s Initiative group for his charity work, Keisel was asked a number of questions about his time in Pittsburgh and on other relevant topics of the day.
Among the topics that he discussed was Pittsburgh Steelers running back and former teammate Le’Veon Bell, who is currently searching for the largest contract ever paid to a running back in NFL history on a per-year basis. Already extended the franchise tag at a value of over $14.5 million, there is still hope on both sides of a long-term deal being struck before the mid-July deadline.
“He is maybe the greatest player at that position. And that’s what he wants”, Keisel said of Bell’s quest for his gigantic contract, according to Tim Benz. “The business side of things can get ugly. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to go for what you can, when you can”.
Keisel isn’t a player who ever really had heated contract negotiations, at least that I’m aware of, but part of that would have to do with the fact that the prime era of his career came when he was older already. It’s harder to be in demand when you spend most of your best years on special teams.
While he might understand the business side of football, though, he also remembers the football side and the family side. He said that the Steelers are “not like the other 31 NFL teams. There might be a few that are close. But it’s not like them”.
It is somewhat easier to say that when you’ve never played for another team. To the best of my recollection, he never even came close to playing for another team. Prior to his final season, he was scheduled to take a visit with the Arizona Cardinals but rerouted to Pittsburgh and re-signed.
It helps when you are on a championship team, of course. But Keisel also sees the players’ role in building that championship team among themselves.
“One thing that I loved about playing here was that you’ve all got to work together to keep the team together”, he said. “Luckily I was with a bunch of guys who did that, and we had the success that we did”.
The Steelers were able to maintain a very stable roster on the defensive side of the ball through most of the 2000s. When changes were made, there were replacements at the ready, as Keisel was for Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Part of the reason that maintained that foundation is because they had a tight-knit group who knew they were on the cusp of collective greatness.
Bell has to decide if he wants to be a part of that bad enough to potentially accept less money than he might otherwise get.