It's a difficult proposition for a 3-4 defensive end, and Keisel had little to show for his work in three years beyond his exploits as a wedge-buster on the kickoff coverage team.
But Keisel has become that pass-rusher the Steelers envisioned – and just in time. With his contract up after today's game against the Detroit Lions, Keisel has the first three sacks of his career, two of which he recorded last Saturday against the Cleveland Browns.
Everything appears to be falling into place for the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder at just the right time.
"Two sacks and I missed another one," he said. "I also had two forced fumbles, one on the kickoff and one on the sack. So, yeah, it was a good game. It was fun. I was having a blast out there."
Both sacks last week came out of the Steelers' 3-2 alignment. Keisel likes it because he's allowed to line up wider than normal, and his success this season has allowed the coaching staff to rest iron-man Aaron Smith more often.
Keisel's success has also allowed the coaching staff to make a better pitch for him before he becomes a free agent in March.
However, would Keisel stay with the team as a reserve? Starting end Kimo von Oelhoffen also becomes a free agent in March but he's repeatedly told reporters he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. Would Keisel?
"I don't want to go anywhere," he said. "I love it here. I love the team here. I love the Rooneys. I love the family atmosphere that's here, and the team unity and our coaches and all that. But that's down the road. We'll see."
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton and Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers have plenty in common: They were first-day draft picks out of the University of Texas in 2001; they've played in one Pro Bowl apiece; they've been voted team MVPs by their teammates; they've signed multi-million dollar contract extensions this year; and they spend their off-seasons together working out back in their native Texas.
One thing Rogers has that his former linemate doesn't is a touchdown. Rogers scored last week on a 21-yard fumble recovery and return against the New Orleans Saints.
"He told me he drug the whole team," said Hampton. "He did, but there was a lot of pushing. It wasn't like he was dragging everybody. I saw a lot of pushing in the back and stuff."
Hampton's not jealous, is he?
"Nah, man. But he didn't give me no celebration or nothing. I would have at least gone in the stands or something. He talked all about what he was going to do if he ever scored a touchdown and he didn't do anything."
Hampton said the two players are anxiously awaiting the college football national championship showdown between Texas and USC. How does Hampton like Texas' chances?
"What do you mean chances? There ain't no chances; we're going to win," he said. "Nobody's giving us a shot. They're giving USC too much credit. I'm telling you, we're going to win and I don't think it's going to be as close as people think it will be."
"They've won two in a row. Is that what makes them so good?" Hampton asked. "Their defense isn't good; our defense is good. We have just as much team speed as they do; they're not faster than us anywhere. So what makes them better? They're just not fast enough."
NO DEEP THREATS?
The Steelers average 13.4 yards per completion to rank first in the NFL. Hines Ward was asked how it's happened.
"But yet we don't have a deep threat," he said playfully, and then he became serious.
"Ced (Wilson) and Twan (Randle El), they're both averaging at least 16 yards per catch and my average has gone up. But yet they still say we need to go out and draft a deep threat.
"We're leading the league in yards per pass, so that's on you guys," he said of the media. "We just go do our thing. I don't really have an answer for that."