Brett Keisel might be the oldest player on the Steelers defense at 34, but you would never know it. His enthusiasm and boundless energy reflects that of some of the young defensive linemen he mentors daily at the team's OTAs.
Keisel doesn't have to be there for the voluntary OTAs, but he hasn't missed a beat, taking part in all eight of the sessions to date, with no plans to change that when they wrap up on Thursday, giving way to minicamp next week.
"This is my team, I feel like," said Keisel. "I think it's important for me to be here. We have a lot of young defensive linemen. I want to show them that even an old guy can come out here and work, even an old guy can go in the weight room and work out after practice. If I can do it, they can do it."
Keisel isn't alone showing that veteran leadership on defense, joined at the sessions by linebacker Larry Foote, who like Keisel is in his 12th season, and cornerback Ike Taylor, in his 11th year. Foote and Taylor are also working with the younger players, helping them learn as they know it will do nothing but benefit the team in the long run.
"I am trying to help them understand plays, understand our defense," said Taylor. "I am showing them how to be a professional athlete on and off the field, how to carry yourself. I am showing them what the coaches and organization are looking for."
He is also helping them with some of the complexities of Dick LeBeau's defense, something that isn't easy for young players to pick up right away.
"Coach LeBeau is always coming up with something new," said Taylor. "For cornerbacks it's not that bad, but for linebackers and safeties it can be tough. Everybody has to be on the same page, if one person is off it's tough."
Taylor joked that he is also getting tips from the younger players, from music to fashion trends, keeping him from dwelling on being one of the elder statesmen on the defense.
"I don't even think about it," said Taylor. "I think I am still young. It's cool everyone is looking up to you, but I like being around the young guys as much as they like looking up to me."
Keisel knows there are a lot of new faces on the team this year, and understand the reality of football, that it doesn't last forever. He said "it's possible" this could be his last year playing, giving him even more drive to get the job done.
"It's not a secret that I'm one of the older guys on the team, the oldest guy on the defense," said Keisel. "If it is that way (and it's the last year), I want to do everything I can in my power to hopefully help lead this team to another championship."