When Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel stepped to the podium for his pre-AFC title game press conference today with a ski cap pulled down close over his eyes, focusing even more attention on his hirsute appearance, he looked like he'd just come down from a backwoods cabin somewhere in the Appalachians.
"Nice beard," a reporter observed.
"It is nice isn't it," said Keisel, looking as if he could audition for a place with ZZ Top.
How does he get a chinstrap over it? "Just lock it down, baby," he said with a smile.
Keisel went on to explain that he began growing the beard in mid-June just after the Steelers' final mini-camp ended. "It was just something I decided to do," he said. "Playoff beards are big around here in Pittsburgh [with the NHL Penguins]. Obviously, we missed the playoffs the year before. It's just something I tried to do to convince myself we were getting back to the playoffs."
Mission accomplished and then some. Keisel's beard has assumed a life of its own in Pittsburgh. Some fans have taken to wearing fake beards to games, and someone started a Facebook page for the beard.
"That's not me," Keisel said. "I think there's a Twitter page, too. That's not me, either. But someone is having some fun with it, which I don't really mind."