Surprise in OLB Bullpen

James Harrison's assertion this week that it's still "realistic" to expect him to suit up in Denver was reassuring to a degree, but the linebacker position remains uncomfortably thin.

Brett Keisel has noticed.

And 'Da Beard maintains he's ready, willing and able to do something about it if needed.

Keisel joked, or so it appeared, after Sunday night's preseason victory over Indianapolis that he'd be available to fill in at OLB if the Steelers thought that might help.

But as it turns out he wasn't joking.

"It's been something that I've had to learn for a long time now," Keisel insisted this week. "It's just an emergency-case situation where if something goes down; you can only dress so many guys. Once we get in the regular season if something did happen I would be able to go out there and run the defense at that position."

Given what the Steelers are dealing with regarding Harrison (knee), Jason Worilds (wrist) and supposed inside-outside guy Stevenson Sylvester (knee), it may yet come to that.

There are potential options ahead of Keisel on the depth chart. Chris Carter has Harrison's spot covered for the time being. And Sean Spence (inside) and perhaps Brandon Johnson (inside-outside) and maybe even Mortty Ivy (inside-outside) are waiting in the wings.

But if the Steelers somehow get to Keisel, he'll play OLB willingly.

"I've loved that position," he said. "When I first got here I was like, ‘Man, that's such a fun position. You get to rush. You get to play back in the pass.' ‘Coach Butz' (linebackers coach Keith Butler) has done a good job of teaching it to me, the ins and outs of mostly dropping into coverage

"Rushing isn't that difficult, just get after the quarterback. But there's a lot you need to learn dropping into some of these coverages. A lot of the rover packages and things we have I'm out at outside (linebacker) anyway, so a lot of the stuff I'm used to doing. There's definitely a possibility in that.

"We're excited to get those guys (Harrison, Worlds and Sylvester) back. I think Jason's getting close, he's getting a hard cast, I think, put on. But who knows when James will be back? I'm ready if they need me."

Video evidence exists, Keisel insists, to support his contention.

"A couple years ago we had some guys go down and I basically played the whole game at outside linebacker," he said. "I think it was Indianapolis when Peyton (Manning) was there (in 2008). We didn't get destroyed but we didn't win (Colts won, 24-20).

"It's something that I can do, that they know I can do. We have some decent depth at D-line right now. If the worst case happens, I'll get out there and show 'em my slap-and-rip move.

"Most of the time (opposing) teams know that I'm coming. Even when I'm roving around they know that I'm going to be coming so they'll account for me somewhere. The only difference is if I'm playing outside linebacker there's more probability that I could be dropping (into coverage). It could cause some confusion, hopefully."

Such a development would only add to the growing Keisel legend. After all, he won a goal line once as a tight end. But if it comes to outside linebacker, it'll be a theory that mostly stays a theory until absolutely necessary, as opposed to one that's actually put into practice.

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