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Keisel loss will hurt vs. Eagles

September 18, 2008
The Altoona Mirror

After the Steelers disposed of the Houston Texans in the first game of the 2008 season, their locker room was a jovial place.

Especially near defensive end Brett Keisel's locker.

''I do feel good,'' Keisel said when asked if he's feeling better as compared to last season. ''I think everyone feels better. We all have a better feel for our scheme this year. We're excited.''

You had the feeling Keisel, now in his seventh NFL season, was gearing up for a big year.

Contrast that to one week later to this past Sunday night's game in Cleveland, where Keisel was sitting all by himself on the Steelers' bench looking as if his team was trailing the Browns. Keisel suffered a calf injury, and he's expected to miss at least one-fourth of the season.

The Steelers have capable replacements for Keisel in veterans Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason, but the defense is going to miss him, especially this week.

Keisel is 6-foot-5, 285 pounds but is fast for his size. Typically, he was always one of the first finishers among his group during training camp sprints.

The Steelers may have a more difficult time in containing Philadelphia Eagles mobile quarterback Donovan McNabb without Keisel lining up at defensive end. Also, Keisel would have been nice to have in chasing down Eagles running back Brian Westbrook on short passes.

Keisel was the last player the Steelers selected in the 2002 draft out of Brigham Young and made his mark on the team with his strong special teams play during the 2002 and 2004 seasons. He then earned more defensive playing time on the Steelers' Super Bowl team of 2005 behind Kimo von Oelhoffen.

The Steelers signed him to a four-year contract before the 2006 year, and he went out and started every game for them since, until this Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger's mysterious shoulder injury has gained more of the spotlight for the Steelers this week, but Keisel's injury is more crucial at this time.

Score, score, score

When asked if the Steelers could be a high-scoring team after taking offensive players in the first two picks of the draft this year, coach Mike Tomlin said, ''Why not.''

Sunday's game against the Eagles is probably the type of game he had in mind. The Eagles' Monday night 41-37 shootout loss to the Cowboys probably reaffirmed his feelings.

NFL Week No. 3

Game of the week: Dallas at Green Bay, 8:15 p.m. Sunday (NBC). This is the week's only matchup of two undefeated teams.

Upset special: Cleveland (+1 1/2) at Baltimore. The Browns are due to win.

Fantasy tip: The Rams' offense has been awful the first two weeks, but it could get into a high-scoring game with the Seahawks on Sunday. The Seahawks' defense ranks 30th in points allowed, and the Rams' ranks 31st.

Buck Frank can be reached at

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