Q: With all of your products and charity work and things you've got going on, you've really turned into a sophisticated, mature, all-around guy.
BK: (Chuckles) Well, thank you. It's been a lot of fun. I can't really pat myself on the back. I've got to really thank my beard. That's really helped me kind of take off. People didn't really care about me – except you, Jim – but I grew this beard out and now it's become somewhat legendary.
Q: Your personality is making it work. Whenever it tries to die you revive it and it becomes bigger than ever.
BK: It's been a lot of fun. It's unique. And I really enjoy growing it out. I think I look awesome with it (laughs).
Q: You have a great excuse now to grow it out, don't you?
BK: Yeah. I have a great excuse to give my lovely wife, that this is what the people want, and I've got to give them what they want.
Q: You're now the leader of the defense, most likely the next captain. That has to help your anticipation of the upcoming season.
BK: Yeah, I'm excited about that. I feel like I've been a leader for a while now. I might not have had that captain's stripe or whatever but coach actually had me lead the team last year a couple times when James [Farrior] was injured and couldn't play. I'm glad I had that opportunity because it prepared me for what is to come this year. I'm excited about it. Being the leader of a great franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers is something that's a great opportunity. That's what I try to tell these kids all the time: You only get so many opportunities and you've got to take advantage of the ones you get.
Q: You mentioned that you've been a leader for years. It's amazing how great teams have those leaders all over the place, and that naming a captain is kind of superfluous sometimes, you know, when everybody knows what to do anyway, particularly the young guys, as you were. So my question is: Now that this team is transforming, do you still have those kinds of smart, character-rich, young self-starters?
BK: I think so. I hope so. There's a lot of talent in this locker room. The biggest task is going to be making sure everybody – and I'm talking all three phases – are all pointed in the same direction with the same goal throughout the whole year. It starts next week when we get into OTAs and we get a feel for some of these younger guys that we need to come in and step in and play well for a lot of these great men that we lost this past year.
It's a great time. There's a changing of the guard. Some of our leaders that have been a part of Steeler Nation for 14, 15 years are no longer there. What are we going to do? Everyone is curious, and I'm curious. I'm excited to answer those questions when we step on the field.
Q: Well, before you step on the field, let's have a bit more conjecture. I'll be the critic and ask about the front seven: Is Casey Hampton's too old and injured? Is Larry Foote good enough to replace Farrior? How will the pass rush rebound from last year's poor numbers? Is James Harrison on his way down and out? There are a lot of questions.
BK: Yeah, there are a lot of questions. We do have some guys who were injured last year, including me. I'm probably considered one of the old, beat-up guys. But I still feel like we can get the job done. We still were number one on defense last year, regardless of our pass-rush stats. I think our secondary is, bar none, the best in the league. It'll be interesting to see who takes over William Gay's spot, but there's a lot of young talent in the DB's room. Obviously the Steelers are excited about it or they wouldn't have let William go.
Q: Good point. Now, about Steve McLendon, your line coach was a little ticked at the media for ignoring him and saying the Steelers had to draft a nose tackle in the first round because Hampton's getting old. What are your thoughts about McLendon?
BK: I think Steve is going to be a great player. I really do. Steve's a huge man. He's very athletic. He really stepped in a lot last year – maybe unnoticed – not only playing nose but also playing end for us. He's one of those versatile guys, and that's what you have to be. That's what I try to tell these guys: The more you can do, the more value you have to the team. And Steve's one of those guys who can play tackle, he can rush the passer, he's strong as an ox. I look for him to have a big year this year. He HAS to have a big year.
Q: McLendon's one of those weightroom nuts, along with Ziggy Hood. And I assume you're on your way there as we speak.
Q: OK, well how about you get some of these Steelers fans pumped up and tell us how nutty these guys are getting in there?
BK: They are nutty. That's why I work out by myself (laughs).
Q: Did they drive you away?
BK: I have a different thing. I've always been kind of a lone wolf in that regard. I've always just kind of worked out on my own. I don't like waiting for someone else, or relying on someone else to be there. I understand the value of having a workout buddy, but I like to do my own thing. I like to listen to my own music. I go down to the South Side and workout, but usually it's getting closer to when all the young guys are wrapping it up. Also, coming off of my groin injury, it's been nice to get that one-on-one with Garrett Giemont. He's helped me get my body back, and I really feel like I'm ready to go, ready to get back out there on the field. It's just different. Even when I was a younger player and I would go back to Wyoming in the summers I've always wanted to do my own thing and get ready on my own.
Q: Well, that's the second time you mentioned how old and beat up you are. You have to excuse me for ignoring that. I didn't know it was such an issue. Should I address it?
BK: (Laughs) It isn't an issue. I just say that because people have been saying that to me for years. I guess I'm just re-iterating it to blow smoke over the situation. But I'm not concerned about my ability to go out and perform at a high level at all. I feel like each year, even as I've gotten older, I've gotten better. And I want to continue to do that this year. I just feel like there's a ring missing off of one of my fingers, and I need to go get it. WE need to go get it.
Q: Do you feel like you were cheated out of a ring? Or do you just feel like you haven't achieved it yet?
BK: No, I don't feel like I was cheated. I just feel like it's out there. It's waiting for us to go get it. I just feel like there's something missing. It's not necessarily because of our game against Green Bay. I just feel like I'm missing some jewelry.
Q: I was kind of hinting more at Spygate. If you ever want to blast that, feel free.
BK: (Laughs) No, it's not really anything towards the past. I just feel like we can be champions again and that's what I'm working towards. I'm not working towards making the team. I'm not working towards making the Pro Bowl, or anything like that. I'm working towards being a champion again and being a part of a parade and hoisting the Lombardi and the seeing the confetti. That's what I'm working for.
Q: It's funny, but those are almost exactly the words of Aaron Smith after he was in his Pro Bowl and he started seeing the last three or four years of his career. And then you guys went out and won a couple rings. What is your sense of how the team as a whole is feeling about winning another ring?
BK: From what I've seen the guys are working extremely hard to get back. And when I see them down there, that's all we talk about. We talk about winning another one; getting back to winning our division and putting ourselves in position to make a run late into the playoffs. That's what we talk about. I think we're going to be fine. I think we do have a lot of young talent. Some of it is inexperienced talent, but I put a lot of trust in Mr. Rooney and Kevin [Colbert] to give ourselves a team that, once it splits Latrobe, will be able to compete for our division, to win our division, and make a long run through the playoffs that ends hopefully with a championship.