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From Buff to the Bowl:

July 9, 2009

Brett Keisel reflects on another championship

WORLAND — “Starting at defensive end – Brett Keisel,” the loudspeaker barks to the sellout crowd at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

He ended last season’s NFL Super Bowl with a fumble recovery, preserving the victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23. It was a self-admitted great way to end his seventh year in the league. Outside the great finish, it was a tough year for Keisel who missed six games due to injury.

“I had to work like a madman to get back on the field,” Keisel said during an interview after a round of golf in Worland Wednesday afternoon.

Keisel returns to Greybull and the Big Horn Basin every year. He comes back for self-described “therapy.”

He comes back in order to “clear my mind and slow down. There’s something about coming back to Wyoming that is refreshing and it lets you clear your mind.”

At 30, (he’ll be 31 in September) Keisel is well aware that the average length of stay in the National Football League is three years. He has bettered the odds. He’ll start his eighth season July 31 with a new, old, familiar, training camp.

“I feel really fortunate. It’s all been with the same team, and that’s practically unheard of. And to top that all off, I have two Super Bowl rings. I feel really lucky and very blessed. It only makes me hungry for more,” he said.

Injuries aside, which he said are all well healed, Keisel says he is just now getting into his prime.

“When I go on the field I know I can compete, regardless of who I am going up against. And that’s really all you can ask for in the league that I am in. You want to be able to compete and make plays for your team.”

With two Super Bowl rings, Keisel still has at least one unrealized goal.

“I’ve never been selected to the Pro Bowl, and that’s a big goal of mine,” he admits. And then he noted that it is tough for a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme to get selected because “a lot of the time your job is to gobble up blockers. But it has been done, and it is something I work towards.”

The toughest part of the physically grueling job is “staying in shape. You are constantly having to stay at the top of your game. The older you get the harder you have to train to keep up with these younger guys.”

He is well aware of that fact, because the Steelers selected a defensive end in the recent draft.

“I know it is a business, and as I get older the Steelers are going to want to integrate someone into my spot and have them ready to step in when needed.

“I’m at the point where I have to start thinking where I want to be and what I want to do when I get out. I feel I have five good years or so left in me if my body holds up.

“I’d love to end my career in Pittsburgh. There’s a handful of guys who have started their career at one place, had a good career there, and ended their career in the same place. That’s another goal of mine, but I also know the nature of the business. And if I was to be cast out, it would be fun to come back out West where you maybe see the mountains or the ocean. I’ve always been fond of the West, but we will see what happens.”

Keisel is entering the fourth year of a four-year contract with the Steelers. He does not know how it will shake out this time around, but the last time he was negotiating there were other teams taking a look at him. He did not say which ones.

“At the time I was a special teams guy and a situational player. This time it’s a bit different. Now that I’m winding down, those options are out there, and they are real.

“I honestly believe it will work out for the best.”

After his pro days are over, and he knows that day will come, Keisel says coaching may hold an interest. “It intrigues me. Football has been a part of my life for so long I think it would be hard to give it up completely.”