There is a compelling argument for why the Steelers should bring Brett Keisel back in 2015. This piece is not intended as a counterpoint to Carlos’ post regarding the Steelers youth movement. It’s intended as an acknowledgement of where the team is and what we can reasonably expect at the backup DE position as the roster currently sits.
Cam Thomas, sometimes referred to as CFT, is currently the Steelers top backup at defensive end. Late in the 2014 season, after Stephon Tuitt became a starter in week 14, Thomas played an average of only 11.4 snaps per game. It has been argued, accurately in my opinion, that Thomas has no upside whatsoever. That is to say at this stage in his career, he is what you see, he is not going to improve. I don’t think I need to detail all of Thomas’ shortcomings in this piece. Let’s just say it’s reasonable to expect that he won’t get any better and avid fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers know what those shortcomings are.
Knowing that and if you only need 10 or 15 snaps per game from that backup, why not cut Thomas and bring Keisel in to play that role? You save a million dollars in salary and are out nothing in terms of quality depth. I’d rather have a young player with upside in that role, don’t get me wrong. But, it would seem that young player is not, and will not, be on the roster this year.
Clifton Geathers is a 27-year old journeyman defensive lineman working for his eighth team in six seasons. L.T. Walton, while a 23 year old rookie with a high motor, is a bit of a project. He has decent athleticism, but is high waisted and has really short arms for a man who is almost 6’5” (32-1/4″). For reference, Stephon Tuitt at the same height has 34-3/4″ arms. Little advantages matter at the NFL level. There are reasons that Walton waited until round six to hear his name called at the draft.
So why not bring back a guy who can provide you that depth and be a good influence on your young players? Do I think that Harrison and Keisel being viable options for the team, at this stage in their careers, represents poor planning on the part of the Steelers personnel department? Yes, I do. But, setting aside hind sight and facing the situation for what it is today; this seems like a win-win. I hope Brett is keeping himself in shape.
I’ll leave you with this thought. The maximum paid to a practice squad player is $6,600 per week. If he lasts the entire season, he makes $112,200. There are ten positions on the practice squad, so the maximum expenditure for that squad comes to $1.122 million. That represents approximately half of Cam Thomas’ $2 million scheduled salary. It could be argued that the squad, as a whole, makes a greater contribution to the team than Thomas does getting in his teammates way when he makes ill advised attempts to move laterally down the line.
Think about that for a minute. Sobering realization isn’t it? To top it all off, reports coming from OTAs and mini camp were that Thomas reported out of shape. I guess that coaching he received from Ted Cottrell this offseason didn’t include instruction on cardio training and pushing away from the dinner table.
UPDATE: a few days after this article was published I was informed that Keisel returning is very unlikely.