Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast

Announcing the winner of the first ever Brett Keisel Award

It’s that time of year again, folks.

The Steelers 2023 training camp is in the rearview mirror, and now I am itching to give somebody an award for something. It’s almost like it is embedded in my DNA. I guess old habits really do die hard.

After multiple years of participation at my previous place of employment, I have something to say, but lack the platform needed to express my observation. What observation am I yearning to draw attention to? Glad you asked.

One of my favorite things about training camp every year is the forgotten longshots who seemingly come out of nowhere to surprise us all, and earn roster consideration. These pleasant surprises happen every year, whether they actually earn a roster spot or not.

They are usually rookies, and almost always late round or undrafted upstarts. This is a must to be considered pleasant surprises, because nobody should be surprised that fourth round selection Nick Herbig is earning a roster spot.

With these parameters in mind, I have taken it upon myself to create the first officially unofficial award in SCN brief history.

I have chosen to call it the Brett Keisel Award, in honor of the hard working overachiever who has deserved every accolade he has ever been given.

A brief backstory about one of my all time favorite Steelers. Brett Keisel was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2002 NFL Draft out of BYU. As was so often the case for the Steelers back then, Keisel was considered a talented project.

Keisel fit the Steelers player development tendencies to a tee. The team looked for collegiate defensive ends who were maybe a little too small to play on the defensive line in the NFL. If they were athletically gifted enough, the Steelers tried to coach them into 3-4 outside linebackers. If they only needed additional weight and functional strength, the Steelers started them on a specific diet and weight training regimen. Either way, patience was required.

Keisel definitely belonged in the latter category. He was long, athletic, and lanky. He needed time and hard work to add muscle and functional strength, but he made steady progress up the depth chart.

It took about 3 seasons for Keisel to become a reliable contributor, but you could see his potential throughout the process. I used to love to watch him flying downfield like a wild child covering kickoffs. Always willing to do anything necessary to help the team, and increase his value.

My admiration for his incredible journey is the reason why I want to acknowledge his  accomplishments by naming this award after him.

So without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to announce the first ever recipient of the prestigious Brett Keisel Award is seventh round rookie offensive lineman Spencer Anderson out of Maryland.

The Steelers had two selections in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and Spencer Anderson was that second selection. To be totally honest, my initial reactions were who and why. I had been entrusted to write a Grading the Pick article for each selection, so some intense research on Spencer Anderson was obviously necessary.

The answers to the who and why were quickly apparent. As stated previously, I trust Andy Weidl’s ability to evaluate the big boys in the trenches that make up both lines. The foundations of any football team. That’s why Andy Weidl is the King of the Round Bellies. Long may he reign.

Spencer Anderson was a polarizing evaluation. He has excellent length at 6’5″, but abnormally short arms for his height. This disappointing abnormality definitely caused him to fall in the draft, because every other measurable was extremely impressive. His Relative Athletic Score was 9.37, suggesting NFL level athleticism.

I received additional good news during my research from a former colleague familiar with the Maryland program. They praised Anderson’s work ethic and character. How he willingly sacrificed personal recognition for the betterment of the program, by playing all 5 offensive line positions during his tenure with the Terrapins. Not only did he play them, but he did each at an acceptable level. That indicates a fundamentally sound, and probably ambidextrous, individual. One more tidbit of information from my knowledgeable acquaintance: They believe Anderson will be a NFL starter someday, at center no less.

Needless to say, I was extremely encouraged as a wrote my Grading the Pick article for Anderson. It only solidified my belief that the 2023 draft class for the  Steelers could turn out to be the best since 1974, which is easily the greatest in NFL history.

My initial perception was that Anderson would make the perfect practice squad addition. A player blessed with unmatched versatility continuing his NFL education tucked away on the practice squad, ready to be called upon at a time of need at a multitude of positions. It seemed like a logical conclusion. A beautiful plan if you will, but Anderson apparently has other plans.

From the moment Anderson stepped foot at Latrobe, he has displayed a can do mindset. Put me in, Coach. I am ready to play. Already this preseason, Anderson has received snaps at tackle, guard, and center. He has appeared at least functional with every opportunity, just like he did in college. That further reveals his position flexibility, football IQ, and continued growth.

In my opinion, Spencer Anderson should make the 53 man roster, as the ultimate versatile OL depth piece. He is also my obvious choice for the inaugural Brett Keisel Award.

Spencer Anderson perfectly embodies the true spirit of this award. A talented but raw prospect, a longshot, who exceeds expectations by earning consideration for a roster spot through hard work and determination. The same attributes that made Brett Keisel a Steelers legend are present with the first recipient of this award named in his honor. That leads me to believe that the future is bright for Spencer Anderson wearing the black and gold.

Congratulations, big fella!

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