Friday, August 03, 2007

Brett Keisel: The X Factor?

The following is an article from the Williamson Daily News that discusses a new role that is in the offing for Steelers' defensive end Brett Keisel. Apparently Dick LeBeau is considering using the 6'5", 285 pound, six year veteran ina kind of flex role a la Troy Polamalu and Adalius Thomas.

"Brett Keisel is a pass-rushing defensive right end who put more pressure on the quarterback last season than any other Pittsburgh Steelers player.

At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Keisel doesn't begin to resemble in size or makeup the more mobile Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' evasive strong safety.
But, to take advantage of Keisel's ability to get to the quarterback, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is experimenting with having Keisel be something of a Polamalu Part II - a player who moves, shifts and flip-flops positions from down to down.

LeBeau, who was retained by new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, believes Keisel can be as disruptive and deceptive as Polamalu is when he moves in from the deep secondary to line up as an outside or inside linebacker.

Think Polamalu, but in a size XXXL.

Keisel still lines up at his customary position of right defensive end but, just before the snap, he may stand up and become an outside linebacker.

At other times, Keisel may shift from one side of the line to the other immediately ahead of the snap, possibly creating overloads that offenses will find difficult to manage when they have two linemen trying to block three defenders.

‘That's what training camp's for, to get comfortable with everything so it's second nature,' Keisel said.

Some players find it hard to adjust from putting their hand on the ground as a defensive lineman to being upright as a linebacker, but Keisel feels comfortable doing either.

His ability to play numerous positions could help transform the Steelers from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense within a season or so.

‘It is fun, man,' Keisel said. ‘I really enjoy it so far. I just hope it works and we can use it in every game. I think it can definitely cause the offense problems and hopefully it will work.'

While Keisel is listed as a defensive end, LeBeau considers him to be a roving linebacker - the Steelers' biggest linebacker since Levon Kirkland played there at nearly 300 pounds. Keisel can move for a big man and has played on special teams in the past.

The AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens used the 6-2, 270-pound Adalius Thomas in a similar role last season, but he signed with New England during the offseason.

Since LeBeau came to him with the idea, Keisel has studied how the 5-10, 207-pound Polamalu - a Pro Bowl player each of the last three seasons - adjusts from positioning himself near the line on one play but drops 15 yards back into coverage on the next. Keisel may occasionally drop into pass coverage himself, something not many 285-pounders do in the NFL.

‘Troy is definitely the master of deception,' Keisel said. ‘He looks like he's rushing, and he'll get back into the deep third (of the coverage), and I'm trying to learn from him and see how it goes.'

With longtime starting outside linebacker Joey Porter gone after being released, the Steelers are looking at various ways to improve a pass rush that was limited to 39 sacks last season - their third fewest in the last 15 seasons.

Porter had a team-high seven sacks last season, but Keisel was credited with pressuring the quarterback 23 times, or nearly twice as many as Porter's 12.

'Troy's still moving around, so we're both kind of doing our own little thing,' Keisel said. ‘It's kind of neat.'
"

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