Hoke, Keisel dominate second team

PITTSBURGH – They are the left side of the Steelers second-team defensive line, this combo from Brigham Young University: Chris Hoke, the fourth-year nose tackle, who led the team in sacks this preason with three; and Brett Keisel, the third-year left end in the 3-4, who appears to have shaken the last bit of rust after missing last season with a shoulder injury.

In the preseason finale Thursday at Heinz Field against the Carolina Panthers, Hoke and Keisel entered field with the rest of the second-teamers after Verron Haynes' touchdown put the Steelers ahead 7-3.

On the first series, Hoke had a sack and shared a second with Keisel. On the next series, Hoke tackled running back DeShaun Foster for a two-yard loss to effectively end the final Panthers series of the half.

Early in the second half, Keisel held Rod Smart to a one-yard gain in what had been an open hole. Keisel also held the point on Adrian Ross' sack, the team's third of the night. Once again, the first team had no sacks.

The second team played six series. If not for an 87-yard touchdown pass by Carolina on third-and-14, Hoke and Keisel would've been the key factors in a defense that held Panthers to 21 yards and forced a turnover.

Here is what the two blue-collar linemen had to say after the game:


How do you feel about the game?
I'm mad we lost.

You played a great game, don't you think?
Thank you. Yeah, I played fairly well. It was fun getting out there again. I got a chance to play with the ones in our nickel and dime. That was a lot of fun. Yeah, it was a good game.

Was that your best game of the preseason?

Are you getting back to the point you were at before the injury?
I think so. I think the more time I'm out on the field, the more comfortable I'm feeling. That's the one thing I'm trying to do, get better each game, get better each day at practice. Hopefully I'm doing that.

Think you can be a factor this year?
I hope so. I hope I can help. We'll just have to see what happens.

The guy next to you, Hokie, he's like Deacon Jones, a sack machine. What's going on?
He's an animal. I don't know. I come around and Hokie gets him on the ground. I'm just so excited for him. He's had a great preseason.

Doesn't he need a sack dance?
I know. He just says ‘Whoo-oo' with that one-armed jig thing. I don't know about that. We'll get something going for him. He's a lot of fun out there.


What was your goal this camp?
When I started out training camp my goal was to make the team and second of all to get in the rotation. I hope this camp I've been able to earn the trust of the coaches so they'll play me during the regular season. I'm just out there trying to do my best.

Ever think you'd lead the team in sacks?
No (laughter). I didn't think that but it feels good though. Getting a sack is a great feeling.

Preseason is the only time you play, isn't it?
That's true. Every year it seems like I'm fighting for a position on this team. This year I feel like I've proven my case. We'll see what happens.

How tough is it to be on a team three years and never get in a game?
It's tough. I don't want to say I'm not happy to be here but of course you want to get in and play. If you play, you prolong your career. I'm just trying to make the most of every opportunity I get. I just want to show the coaches I can play.

Do you think you've done that?
I think I have. We'll see.

Is the experience helping? Are you stronger?
I don't know to be honest with you. I think I've just worked hard on that part of the game. They put an emphasis on rushing the passer and I think it's really helped me out a lot.

What's your best pass-rushing move?
My move? Just get on the edge and rip and get up the field and keep my feet running.

Have you thought about adding a sack dance?
(Laughter) I tell you, ever since college I've done the little arm rip and dance around. A lot of guys don't like that. I may need to change that a little bit.

What's different this year?
I feel like I put on about six, seven pounds. I feel stronger, quicker. It may be confidence. I get a lot of reps. When I was third team I didn't get a lot of reps. When (Kendrick) Clancy went down, I always knew I could do it and a lot more reps gave me confidence and when your confidence grows you play better.

Did you ever lose any confidence?
No. I never lost confidence. But when you're not playing it's very fragile to be honest with you. I always knew I could play and I knew if I was given the opportunity I could do it.

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