Things Bigger than Football: Brett Keisel and Da Beard

USA Today Sports/Charles LeClaire photo

Today’s article is a twofer. You will get to read about an awesome and beloved former Steeler, and you will get a fascinating health tip. Doesn’t get much better than that in the offseason.

Keisel was in the news lately as his iconic beard was removed in the sixth annual Shear Da Beard event. The link takes you to the video. Be sure to watch it—it’s wonderful.

I haven’t seen any figures as to how much this year’s event raised, but the previous five have raised a total of around $250,000 for the UPMC Children’s Hospital’s Division of Hematology/Oncology.

The impulse which prompted this event was born out of the disappointment surrounding the Steelers’ loss in Super Bowl XLV. As writer Teresa Varley explained in a 2015 article:

Brett Keisel began to grow his now famous beard back in training camp in 2010, in an effort to get the Steelers back to the Super Bowl after winning it two years prior. It worked, to an extent. The Steelers made it to Super Bowl XLV, but lost to the Green Bay Packers.

Keisel was as disappointed as anybody after the Super Bowl loss, but he wanted to do something, wanted to end things on a positive note. So he decided to shave off his beard, in public, for charity. What started on a whim five years ago has grown into a sold out event and a beard that has taken on a life of it’s own, something that still surprises Keisel almost as much as his own career surprises him, going from a seventh round draft pick to a two-time Super Bowl champion.

Keisel hasn’t missed a spring practice, even though several of the other ’08ers on defense have gone missing, including Polamalu since his appearance the first week.

“This is my home, I live just up the street,” Keisel said. “This is my team, I feel like. I think it’s important for me to be here. We have a lot of young defensive linemen; I want to show them that even an old guy can come out here and work, even an old guy can go into the weight room and practice. If I can do it, they can do it.

So how did a simple country boy from rural Wyoming (although that is admittedly redundant) become a legend both to Steeler Nation and to the inmates of Children’s Hospital? Many of the Steelers players make at least an occasional visit to Children’s, but Keisel has made it a crusade. In addition to visits and the fundraiser, he is involved with numerous other charities, as detailed by a 2014 article by Teresa Varley:

From the day he arrived in Pittsburgh, Brett Keisel understood what it meant to be a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. It was about holding up a tradition, one forged years before him of excellent play on the field and a commitment to the community off the field.

Keisel saw the example set by the veterans already on the team, from individual events the players hosted to team events they turned out for in hordes, he understood what was important.

“The biggest thing is you see the older guys and how involved they are and how much they care about the community,” said Keisel, their Steelers Walter Peyton Man of the Year in 2011. “That is a big strength of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the involvement in the community. That is something we take pride in and take pride in teaching the younger guys that it’s important to give back and stay active in the community.

IMG_2335I attended the 2014 65-Roses Sports Auction which Keisel co-chaired with Cameron Heyward because one of my singers was a finalist in the highlight of the evening, the Fear Da Beard competition. Although my friend didn’t win, everybody won, as you will seldom see such a fine array of beards. That’s Josh, holding what I suppose you might call a participation trophy. James Harrison wasn’t there to rip it out of his hands, fortunately.

This makes me think there is a somewhat less obvious was in which Brett Keisel is a public benefactor—could he be setting a healthy trend?

Those of us who will (hopefully) never be able to grow a beard have almost certainly been guilty of making assumptions about those who do. Perhaps, we think, they are too lazy to shave. And naturally we have made assumptions (perhaps after an unfortunate glimpse of a days-old remnant of dinner) about how hygienic they are.

But perhaps we were wrong, as this rather startling article from BBC News relates:

On Trust Me I’m a Doctor we do experiments which sometimes throw up genuinely new science. In a previous series, for example, we discovered you can cut the calories in pasta by cooking, cooling and then reheating it.

That was a very pleasing result. But our most recent discovery, finding bacteria which appear to be producing a novel form of antibiotic, feels altogether more significant. What was particularly delightful was that they were found growing in someone’s beard.

Even if you care nothing for beards, check it out. It’s fascinating. Trust Me, I’m a Blogger… And if a novel antibiotic is developed from somebody’s beard combings, perhaps we should thank Brett Keisel.


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I have to admit that, though I had decent beards on and off during the years*, that the ladies didn’t seem as interested in me when I had my beard as when I didn’t. Now that I am old and long since married off you would think I could have my beard and my love life as well but sadly I had to rid myself of my beard and eventually I got rid of what remained of my hair as well as it seemed the simplest way to keep my eczema under control.

    I don’t know if I had ever seen that Keisel interception return before but it was a thing of beauty that put me in mind of Harrison’s gem from the SB vs the Cards.

    * At one point my hair stylist (of the time) wanted me to enter the Festival du Voyageur beard growing contest. In retrospect, I realized her judgement was flawed based on the hairstyle she chose for me. It made me look like an obnoxious local TV weather personality. Enough so that I was stopped by strangers on the street and treated badly by female waiters whom I had never met before. Worse yet, the weatherman’s father worked for the same marketing board as I did and was very shabby in his treatment of me during two job interviews where I was trying to transfer into his department. How was I to know he didn’t get along with his son?


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