Hit man

August 3, 2005

Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel recorded the first KO of training camp, blowing up rookie running back Noah Herron during 11-on-11 drills Tuesday afternoon and highlighting the first shoulder-pads practice of 2005.

"Right place, right time," Keisel said. "We just had a call where I was coming inside. The (offensive) tackle tried to cut me off and I had a step on him. The ball was supposed to come inside of me and I was just there to make the play."

The Steelers don't tackle in such situations, but Herron hit the deck, anyway, due to the force of the blow Keisel struck.

Although backs are supposed to continue running out a play well past the point at which their momentum has been stopped in practice, Herron stayed planted momentarily, an apparent result of a temporary state of disorientation.

Eventually, several coaches screamed at Herron, a No. 7b draft pick from Northwestern, to get up and keep going.

"Yeah, he got up and kind of looked at me like, 'This is really how it is?'" Keisel said. "And I looked back at him like 'Yeah, it is.'"

Herron's rookie status made the ferocious lick all the sweeter, according to Keisel.

"Of course, it is because that stuff happened to me when I was a rookie," he said. "I was the one looking up like, 'Oh, is this how it really is.'"

Keisel likened the shot to hitting a home run in the first intrasquad game of a baseball spring training.

"You bet, it felt great," he said.

It might also send a message that the fourth-year pro and former No. 7b draft pick from BYU is ready to take on more responsibility with the defense.

Keisel, 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, has contributed on special teams and rotated in along the defensive line on occasion during his first three seasons with the Steelers.

"I hope so," Keisel said. "Let me do whatever, I'm ready. They've told me to know it all, so we'll see. They said, 'Know what the nose (tackle) is doing, know what the ends are doing, and know what the 'backers are doing,' so that's where I'm at."

As for where the Steelers are headed, Keisel is thinking big.

He's also thinking about holdout wide receiver Hines Ward.

"We're ready to rock and roll, I think," Keisel said. "We have a lot to prove. We want to go all the way this year.

"We need to get our guy back."