PHILADELPHIA _ Brett Keisel rejoined his former teammates in time to make the trip to Philly, even though word has it he’ll be a spectator rather than a participant in preseason game No. 3 against the Eagles.
That’s not to suggest Keisel will be along for the ride this season.
But nor has he been brought back to be the 2014 equivalent of Mean Joe Greene.
Keisel was never that at his best (who was, other than Mean Joe?) and it remains to be seen how effective Keisel can be in this, his 13th NFL season.
If he can play at the level he achieved when healthy last season and stay healthy this season, he ought to be able to play significant snaps in a complementary capacity.
And if that’s the case, this is a win for the Steelers and a win for Keisel.
Assuming he’s still capable Keisel will be able to contribute. And as a contributor he’ll likely play enough in relief of starting defensive ends Cam Thomas and/or Cam Heyward that the veteran leadership, perspective and presence Keisel will provide and the veteran work ethic and example Keisel will maintain will still have great value in the locker room.
But he can’t be overused.
As much as defensive line coach/assistant head coach John Mitchell is going to want to turn to his trusted, decorated veteran when the going is less than smooth, Keisel can’t be given snaps that would otherwise go to prized rookie Stephon Tuitt.
The kid has to play, period. At least as an interior pass rusher in sub-package situations initially and at defensive end as soon as he’s deemed ready, which might well be sooner rather than later.
Keisel’s return after a flirtation with Arizona and the two-year, $3 million contract Keisel ultimately inked with the Steelers should change nothing as it relates to the Steelers’ No. 2 pick from Notre Dame.
Serious negotiations had been taking place without a mutual agreement before Keisel flew to Arizona and then phoned home one last time just prior to signing with the Cardinals.
The idea on the Steelers’ end then was what it is now.
Keisel has been brought back first and foremost to provide depth.
If his return costs Daniel McCullers a helmet on game day and Brian Arnfelt or Josh Mauro a spot on the roster, that’s a price worth paying.
But if the Steelers attempt to extract more out of Keisel than they ought to they’ll be pushing their luck and potentially doing themselves a long-term disservice.
For now it’s a feel-good story and it should be perceived as such.
Keisel’s been an iconic figure amid a second wave of championship Steelers teams, and he’s earned all the accolades and adulation so enthusiastically bestowed upon him by a grateful Steeler Nation.
But that said his situation is what it is, not what it was, and that’s a perspective that shouldn’t be confused amid the celebration of a happy ending.