The 34-year-old Brett Keisel has been a steady presence on Pittsburgh's defensive line for the past seven seasons and figures to make it an eighth this season.
For years, Keisel was the Steelers “worst” defensive lineman behind Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton, but now he is their best—though Steve McLendon will challenge him for that title this year.
Keisel has fended off two first-round draft picks to keep his starting job and will have to do so again this season.
Cameron Heyward has been getting better and needs to be on the field this season, but that should come at the expense of Hood, not Keisel.
Keisel is still a productive player and will be the unquestioned leader of the defense heading into the season. His play has not dropped off and he should be a strong candidate for a short-term contract extension this summer.
The Steelers do not want to repeat the situation they had at wide receiver this offseason with the defensive end position next year.
After nearly losing Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers do not want to be in position to lose Keisel and Hood. Losing one player will leave them thin at the position, but losing both would mean virtually no depth.
Given his age, Keisel will not demand a huge contract and may even take a team-friendly deal to finish his career in Pittsburgh.
Dick LeBeau uses a three-man rotation with the defensive line and Keisel can easily be a part of that for another two to three years, either as a starter or the first man off the bench.