2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Youngsters taking over on Steelers' defensive line

By WILL GRAVES - AP Sports Writer
    2013-07-28 18:07

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) - Casey Hampton's deep belly laugh, the one that could cut the tension in a meeting room or light up the sideline in an instant, is gone. So is the massive backside that could send opposing centers back onto their heels and the wisdom that comes with being a five-time Pro Bowler.

And for the man used to trotting onto the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers when Hampton's familiar No. 98 came chugging off, it's just weird.

``Sometimes, I wish he was still here,'' Steve McLendon said. ``There's not much you can say about it. I miss him. I think we all do.''

While the decision to cut 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison in the offseason created headlines, the 35-year-old Hampton was nudged quietly toward retirement when the longest-tenured member of one of football's most stable franchises was not offered a new contract. He remains unsigned, even though McLendon insists Hampton can still play.

McLendon may be right, but it most certainly won't be with the Steelers, leaving defensive end Brett Keisel as the last man standing from a defensive front that led Pittsburgh to three Super Bowl appearances and two championships during a six-year stretch between the 2005 and 2010 seasons.

Chris Hoke retired at the end of 2011. So did end Aaron Smith. Now Hampton is gone and Keisel doesn't have a deal beyond 2013.

``If it is the end, I want to go out on top,'' Keisel said. ``And I want to go out on top if it's not the end.''

As has become tradition, Keisel arrived for training camp at Saint Vincent College on Friday in a dump truck with a Steelers hard hat perched atop his head and the barely-in-control thatch of hair that serves as his beard in midseason form. The entrance was more than a little symbolic, with Keisel pointing out the team is ``under construction.''

If so, the strongest beam needs to be replaced.

Even as Hampton's play declined as he approached his mid-30s, he remained the unquestioned heart and soul in the middle of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense. He clogged up running lanes between the hash marks and served as a mentor on the sidelines and in the classroom, one who knew how to push buttons with his homespun charm.

The job has now been passed down to Keisel, coming off a steady season in which he picked up 4.5 sacks and was credited with 40 quarterback pressures. Surrounded by a bunch of 20-somethings, Keisel understands he's now the old guy, one who is ready to carry on the legacy left behind by the players who molded him from seventh-round reach in 2002 to a veteran well into his second decade in the NFL.

``If we need answers, we look to him,'' defensive end Ziggy Hood said. ``If he leads us through, I'm just going to follow.''

The Steelers hope that path leads to the quarterback. Pittsburgh finished No. 1 in total defense for the fifth time since 2004 last year but was a middling 15th in sacks (37) and created just 20 turnovers, with four of them coming in a meaningless season finale.

There was competence but little chaos, something Hood, McLendon and 2011 first-round pick Cam Heyward know it's time to produce after spending the early portions of their careers learning instead of leading.

So does Keisel.

``Our young guys have got to step up and seize this moment,'' Keisel said.

It's why McLendon decided to become one of the world's largest joggers in the offseason. The 320-pounder would head outside for a run a handful of times a week, plodding along in alternating 30-second and 1-minute bursts while drawing astonished looks from the folks he'd pass along the path.

``I just had to do it,'' said McLendon, who had two sacks while spelling Hampton last fall. ``I had to be in better shape.''

A decided departure from Hampton's more sedentary training plan. It wasn't exactly fun, but McLendon didn't have much of a choice. It took him four years to rise from undrafted free agent to the top of the depth chart, though he hasn't stopped to wonder if he's finally arrived.

``The journey hasn't ended, it's really just beginning for me,'' McLendon said. ``It's really going to be a test right now. It's a lot of pressure. The best way to handle pressure is to apply it.''

NOTES: DB Cortez Allen was slowed by knee discomfort on Sunday while fellow DB DeMarcus Van Dyke is dealing with a tweaked hamstring. Both players are listed as day-to-day ... Tight-end David Paulson, who is No. 2 on the depth chart while Heath Miller recovers from left knee surgery, made a series of diving grabs in traffic ... The Steelers don pads for the first time on Monday, a move coach Mike Tomlin likened to ``the first day of school.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow WillGraves on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WillGravesAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

DeMarco MurrayOct 25 08:28p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray worked out with TE Jason Witten before the team's official offseason program, and he credits the veteran tight end with his increased stamina and [ More ]

Ryan ClarkOct 25 06:42p

Washington Redskins DE Chris Baker (thigh), OT Tyler Polumbus (knee), LB Perry Riley (knee) and OT Trent Williams (knee) practiced Saturday, Oct. 25, and are probable for Week 8. [ More ]

Edwin BakerOct 25 06:22p

The New Orleans Saints released TE Tom Crabtree Saturday, Oct. 25. RB Edwin Baker was promoted to the 53-man roster in his place.

Tom CrabtreeOct 25 06:12p

The New Orleans Saints released TE Tom Crabtree Saturday, Oct. 25.

Jerel WorthyOct 25 06:12p

The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed DE Jerel Worthy to the practice squad Saturday, Oct. 25.

LaMarr WoodleyOct 25 05:02p

Oakland Raiders LB LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) were placed on Reserve/Injured Saturday, Oct. 25. CB D.J. Hayden (foot) was activated from the Physically Unable to [ More ]

Derrick ColemanOct 25 04:32p

Seattle Seahawks FS Derrick Coleman (foot) was placed on Reserve/Injured Saturday, Oct. 25. The team signed WR Phil Bates to the 53-man roster.

Damian WilliamsOct 25 04:32p

Miami Dolphins DE Dion Jordan was activated to the 53-man roster Saturday, Oct. 25, after serving his suspension. WR Damian Williams was waived to make room for him.

Jack CrawfordOct 25 04:32p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (thigh), FS Jakar Hamilton (personal), OT Jermey Parnell (chest) and DE Anthony Spencer (knee, foot) practiced Saturday, Oct. 25, and are probable for Week [ More ]

Doug FreeOct 25 03:52p

Dallas Cowboys OG Doug Free (foot) could return next week against the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Jason Garrett said he hopes Free will be able to practice net week.

Ryan TaylorOct 25 03:02p

The Baltimore Ravens waived TE Ryan Taylor and promoted TE Phillip Supernaw from their practice squad to the active roster Saturday, Oct. 25.

Chandler JonesOct 25 02:12p

New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (hip) could be done for the season with a hip injury he suffered in Week 7. Jones will reportedly miss at least six weeks.

Chris CookOct 25 01:22p

The San Francisco 49ers placed CB Chris Cook (hamstring) and C Daniel Kilgore (leg) on Reserve/Injured and signed S Ray Ventrone to a one-year deal Saturday, Oct. 25.

Gerell RobinsonOct 25 01:12p

The Cleveland Browns activated OL Nick McDonald and waived TE Gerell Robinson Saturday, Oct. 25.

Gerald McCoyOct 25 01:02p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy has agreed to terms with the team on a seven-year contract extension worth close to $100 million.

Marcus EasleyOct 25 12:42p

Buffalo Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee) will work out before the team's Week 8 game to see if he will be able to play, according to head coach Doug [ More ]

Jason TrusnikOct 25 12:42p

Miami Dolphins LB Jason Trusnik could start at middle linebacker in Week 8 if LB Koa Misi (ankle) is not able to play.

Tavarres KingOct 25 12:22p

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed practice squad CB Peyton Thompson to their active roster Saturday, Oct. 25. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived WR Tavarres King.

Calais CampbellOct 25 12:22p

Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell (knee) likely will be a game-time decision for Week 8, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Campbell said his knee felt good during practice and hopes to play.

A.J. GreenOct 25 12:12p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) is not expected to play in Week 8, because he has ligament damage under his toe. The team wants to be careful with [ More ]

Shonn GreeneOct 25 12:02p

Tennessee Titans RB Shonn Greene was arrested Friday, Oct. 24, and charged with a handicap parking violation, driving on a revoked/suspended license, reckless driving and resisting stop/halt/frisk.

Sean SpenceOct 25 11:32a

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Ryan Shazier (knee) should be able to play in Week 8, but it is not known if he will start at inside linebacker. Shazier and LB [ More ]

Aqib TalibOct 25 05:22a

Denver Broncos CB Tony Carter has drawn interest on the trade market prior to the Oct. 28 deadline. CBs Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby have taken away some playing [ More ]

Alan BranchOct 25 05:12a

Free-agent DL Alan Branch (Bills) was spotted in the New England Patriots' locker room but still has not signed his contract with the team. An additional report by Mike [ More ]

Jason KelceOct 25 12:42a

Philadelphia Eagles C Jason Kelce (hernia) is listed as questionable for the Week 8 game against the Arizona Cardinals, but he is unlikely to play. He had sports hernia [ More ]

Cullen JenkinsOct 25 12:42a

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) is expected to miss at least a few weeks, so DEs Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka could be asked to play interior [ More ]

Jon BeasonOct 25 12:42a

New York Giants LB Devon Kennard might see more playing time with LB Jon Beason (toe) injured and possibly sidelined a while.

Emmanuel AchoOct 25 12:32a

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks (calf) might be able to return for the Week 8 game against the Arizona Cardinals. If not, LBs Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews would [ More ]

Luke WillsonOct 24 10:44p

Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin) will play in the team's Week 8 game, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Crockett GillmoreOct 24 10:32p

Baltimore Ravens rookie TE Crockett Gillmore will receive the start at tight end in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Ravens appear to have plenty of confidence [ More ]

Golden TateOct 24 10:12p

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate will be facing the league's 29th ranked pass defense in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Steve JohnsonOct 24 10:08p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson has played only 20 percent of the snaps in the last month, but he's been the team's most effective receiver in that time. [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group