Notebook: Keisel signs tender

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> With the growing use of the 3-4 defense, and the low seventh-round compensation it would take to sign him, Brett Keisel figured he'd be one of the league's more attractive restricted free agents this spring.

"That's what I thought," said Keisel. "But I just got tired of waiting."

An offer didn't come his way, so Keisel signed his one-year tender with the Steelers yesterday. He did so with three days left in the signing period.

Why?

"Because I want to stay here and win a Super Bowl," Keisel said.

Bravado aside, Keisel could just as easily have signed the tender next week and given himself a chance at a multi-year contract from, say, the New England Patriots.

"I just got tired of the whole thing," he said. "I just wanted to be done with it. Now I can just get in here and get to work and not have the contract thing on my mind."

But it will be on his mind all season. Keisel will likely become an unrestricted free agent after the 2005 season. What he shows this year will reflect in his checkbook next year.

"That's the key," he said. "I didn't get much playing time last year and I'm hoping to show what I can do this year. I want to play, and not just on special teams."

Coming off a 2003 season that was wiped out by a shoulder injury, Keisel played sparingly as a back-up left defensive end behind Pro Bowler Aaron Smith. Keisel logged an average of 5.8 snaps his first 9 games before a hamstring injury knocked him out of action. He finished with a 45-snap outing against Buffalo before seeing limited action in the playoffs.

The 6-5, 285-pounder finished the season with 3 tackles on defense and 10 special-teams tackles. When healthy, Keisel is the team's best wedge-buster on kickoffs.

The Steelers now have two unsigned restricted free agents. Free safety Chris Hope and running back Verron Haynes have until Friday to sign an offer from another team. If the Steelers would fail to match any such offer, they'd receive a third-round draft pick for Hope and/or a fifth-round pick for Haynes.

DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

On April 13, 2004, Ben Roethlisberger visited the Steelers in anticipation of the draft. Obviously, quite a bit has changed over the year.

"There were so many unanswered questions," Roethlisberger said Tuesday. "Now, I know what's going on. Now, I'm working on the offense, working on my body, working with these receivers. This year it's a lot more fun, a lot less stressful."

To add fun to his workouts, the reigning Rookie of the Year stands five to 10 yards from one of his receivers and fires tennis balls in rapid-fire fashion.

"They have to catch them one-handed and drop them," he said of a drill he learned in college. "More than help them get better hands and hand-eye coordination, (the goal) is just getting on the same page and having fun with each other."

Roethlisberger understands the pro game better, of course, and believes that understanding will help offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt open up the Steelers' offense.

"Hopefully, coach Whis won't be as afraid to be as restricted because I will have a year of experience under my belt," Roethlisberger said. "Hopefully he'll have more confidence in me."

MORE VISITORS

The Steelers on Tuesday hosted Oklahoma right tackle Jammal Brown and Texas A&M wide receiver Terrence Murphy.

Brown is considered one of the elite tackles in the draft and is expected to be gone by the time the Steelers pick.

Murphy is considered a bottom-of-the-first-round prospect and could tempt the team with the 30th pick. Murphy (6-1, 202) caught 100 passes the last two seasons at A&M and as a junior averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return. He ran a 4.45 40 at the combine and had a vertical jump of 41½ inches at his pro day workout.

According to Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, the Steelers have hosted "14 or 15" visitors this draft season. They're allowed 20. Among the previous visitors were receivers Troy Williamson and Mark Clayton, offensive linemen Marcus Johnson, Elton Brown and Trai Essex, and cornerbacks Stanley Wilson and Domonique Foxworth.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\"That's what I thought,\" said Keisel. \"But I just got tired of waiting.\"

\r\nAn offer didn't come his way, so Keisel signed his one-year tender with the Steelers yesterday. He did so with three days left in the signing period.

\r\nWhy?

\r\n\"Because I want to stay here and win a Super Bowl,\" Keisel said.

\r\nBravado aside, Keisel could just as easily have signed the tender next week and given himself a chance at a multi-year contract from, say, the New England Patriots.

\r\n\"I just got tired of the whole thing,\" he said. \"I just wanted to be done with it. Now I can just get in here and get to work and not have the contract thing on my mind.\"

\r\nBut it will be on his mind all season. Keisel will likely become an unrestricted free agent after the 2005 season. What he shows this year will reflect in his checkbook next year.

\r\n\"That's the key,\" he said. \"I didn't get much playing time last year and I'm hoping to show what I can do this year. I want to play, and not just on special teams.\"

\r\nComing off a 2003 season that was wiped out by a shoulder injury, Keisel played sparingly as a back-up left defensive end behind Pro Bowler Aaron Smith. Keisel logged an average of 5.8 snaps his first 9 games before a hamstring injury knocked him out of action. He finished with a 45-snap outing against Buffalo before seeing limited action in the playoffs.

\r\nThe 6-5, 285-pounder finished the season with 3 tackles on defense and 10 special-teams tackles. When healthy, Keisel is the team's best wedge-buster on kickoffs.

\r\nThe Steelers now have two unsigned restricted free agents. Free safety Chris Hope and running back Verron Haynes have until Friday to sign an offer from another team. If the Steelers would fail to match any such offer, they'd receive a third-round draft pick for Hope and/or a fifth-round pick for Haynes.

\r\n\r\nDIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

\r\nOn April 13, 2004, Ben Roethlisberger visited the Steelers in anticipation of the draft. Obviously, quite a bit has changed over the year.

\r\n\"There were so many unanswered questions,\" Roethlisberger said Tuesday. \"Now, I know what's going on. Now, I'm working on the offense, working on my body, working with these receivers. This year it's a lot more fun, a lot less stressful.\"

\r\nTo add fun to his workouts, the reigning Rookie of the Year stands five to 10 yards from one of his receivers and fires tennis balls in rapid-fire fashion.

\r\n\"They have to catch them one-handed and drop them,\" he said of a drill he learned in college. \"More than help them get better hands and hand-eye coordination, (the goal) is just getting on the same page and having fun with each other.\"

\r\nRoethlisberger understands the pro game better, of course, and believes that understanding will help offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt open up the Steelers' offense.

\r\n\"Hopefully, coach Whis won't be as afraid to be as restricted because I will have a year of experience under my belt,\" Roethlisberger said. \"Hopefully he'll have more confidence in me.\"

\r\n\r\nMORE VISITORS

\r\nThe Steelers on Tuesday hosted Oklahoma right tackle Jammal Brown and Texas A&M wide receiver Terrence Murphy.

\r\nBrown is considered one of the elite tackles in the draft and is expected to be gone by the time the Steelers pick.

\r\nMurphy is considered a bottom-of-the-first-round prospect and could tempt the team with the 30th pick. Murphy (6-1, 202) caught 100 passes the last two seasons at A&M and as a junior averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return. He ran a 4.45 40 at the combine and had a vertical jump of 41½ inches at his pro day workout.

\r\nAccording to Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, the Steelers have hosted \"14 or 15\" visitors this draft season. They're allowed 20. Among the previous visitors were receivers Troy Williamson and Mark Clayton, offensive linemen Marcus Johnson, Elton Brown and Trai Essex, and cornerbacks Stanley Wilson and Domonique Foxworth.

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