Brett Keisel’s preseason work is usually done by now.
Not this year.
The veteran Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end likely will see plenty of action Thursday night when the Steelers face Carolina in their annual meeting in the preseason finale. The 35-year-old needs the work after re-signing with the Steelers last week.
So does the rest of the defense.
“Coach T [Mike Tomlin] was joking that I haven’t played in a Carolina game since the early 2000s, so it’ll be great to get back out there,” Keisel said Monday. “I’m glad he’s going to play me, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Keisel probably was a special-teams ace back in those early days against the Panthers. His only role this week will be to improve a defense that was badly torched by the Philadelphia Eagles in a 31-21 loss last Thursday.
“We can improve everywhere,” said Keisel, who watched the debacle in Philadelphia from the sideline. “There’s a lot of work to be done, technique things to be worked out and mental assignments that need to be corrected. So, we’re looking to respond and play better than we did last week and move forward.”
Pittsburgh’s first-string defense allowed 24 points and a handful of big plays to the Eagles. It got so bad that typically even-keeled safety Troy Polamalu let his teammates have it during an animated discussion.
“[It] wasn’t good enough, obviously,” Polamalu said. “Hopefully, that’s not a telling story of how we’ll be this year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn from these mistakes and get better.”
There’s not much choice. The starters have been pushed around in all three exhibition games, giving up a 73-yard touchdown in the opener against the New York Giants and over 200 yards in less than a half of work against Buffalo before struggling against the Eagles.
While Tomlin hasn’t yet committed to how many starters will play against the Panthers, they know they could use the reps.
“The only thing I can do is take responsibility for my actions and my actions alone, so that’s what I’m doing this week,” nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “I’m preparing to play, and I think everybody should do that. But I really don’t know how much action we’ll get.”
Outside linebacker Jason Worilds believes the Steelers need to use the Eagles’ game as a learning experience even if he spends most of Thursday night on the sideline in a baseball cap counting the minutes until the season opener against Cleveland on Sept. 7.
“We’re definitely going to take the good and improve on it and take the bad and make it a strength,” Worilds said. “It’s just a matter of everybody being consistent. I think we have the ability to make the plays that everybody can’t make, but we didn’t make the plays that everyone can make.”
Tomlin said Monday the team still hasn’t decided how to discipline RBs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount after the two were cited for marijuana possession during a traffic stop last week.
Tomlin said “everything is on the table” and any punishment would most likely be in-house and not made public.