He knew sooner or later it had to go, so Brett Keisel figured he might as well make it worthwhile. That's why he hosted "Shear the Beard," to benefit the cancer programs at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC on Thursday.
Keisel started growing the beard in the summer to help inspire the team to get back to the playoffs. As it grew, so did the attention it got from a Facebook page to a Twitter account, culminating on Super Bowl media day when reporters fired question after question at him about the beard.
"I didn't expect it. I really didn't," said Keisel of the beard's popularity. "It took on a whole life of its own. I never anticipated it growing to where it did."
But the beard's life came to an end when Steelers President Art Rooney II took the first snip at Diesel Club Lounge as Keisel sat a barber's chair on stage and joked he hoped it was the only time that Rooney "cut" him. Others joined in the fun cut, including defensive end Aaron Smith, wide receiver Hines Ward, guard Doug Legursky and defensive line coach John Mitchell.
"It was a legendary evening down here at Diesel," said Keisel after a shave and haircut. "The beard transformed and left. What an awesome night it was to be able to raise money for Children's Hospital. You see how great Pittsburgh is when people come out for an event like this, one that is kind of weird but cool at the same time.
"I feel like I am 15 again. It's been a long time since I have had this look. I was probably a rookie."
More than 400 people packed Diesel, many of them sporting No. 99 Keisel jerseys while others wore T-shirts they purchased commemorating the big shave.
"The beard started early in the season and took off from there," said Ward. "It's been about the beard the whole year. It's amazing to see this many people out here to see Brett shave off his beard. I don't think it could happen in any other city. That is the special bond the city has with the team. That makes it special.
"I kept a little piece of it. It's in my pocket. It's a little itchy. I can't grow facial hair."
Before the shave began a Renegade video tribute to the beard was played. And then, it was all business as each of the cutters came up and gave their props to Keisel before cutting.
"I want it on record that it pains me to do this because it's the most epic beard I have seen in my life," said Legursky before his turn.
The event raised around $30,000 for Children's Hospital cancer programs, a charity Keisel choose after watching what teammate and close friend Aaron Smith has gone through with his son Elijah, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, and the great treatment he received at Children's Hospital.
"I look at Aaron as a big brother," said Keisel. "He is family to me. I wouldn't be here without him. To be able to help out Children's Hospital who has done so much for Aaron's family was a simple decision for me."
And the gesture meant a lot to Smith.
"It means a lot to me," said Smith. "The friendship we formed and relationship we have, him seeing me go through what I have gone through. For him to take his time to do an event like this is a huge compliment, huge honor.
"In my mind there is a not a better place than this Children's Hospital. You make a difference with everything you do for the place. It's good to see the craziness that came out of the beard turn around and be used for something good."
After getting a jump start on the shave from his teammates, Keisel then left the stage for a closer shave. When he emerged, he looked completely different. But don't expect the beard to be gone for good.
"I am going to have to. I think it's a part of me now. I think I would be not smart if I didn't bring it back. I think the beard will decide when the time is right to come back. It will know when the time is right and all of a sudden appear."