Impact of Keisel signing on Steelers' roster

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers made the return of Brett Keisel official on Wednesday morning when they announced that they had signed the veteran defensive end to a two-year contract.

The length of the contract isn’t necessarily a sign that the Steelers are hoping to get two more seasons out of Keisel, who turns 36 next month. It is a clear indication that "Da Beard" received more than the veteran's minimum to sign and that the Steelers want to spread the signing bonus over two years as in regard to the salary cap.

The Steelers released defensive tackle Al Lapuaho to make room for Keisel, and that should allay any concerns -- for now -- that Keisel would take a roster spot from a promising young player.

Lapuaho did not play in the Steelers’ second preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, and he wasn’t going to survive the cut that the Steelers have to make Tuesday when teams have to trim their rosters from 90 to 75 players.

The bigger question is what the Steelers do when they have to finalize their 53-man roster a week from Saturday.

If they keep only six defensive linemen Keisel, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers make the team, with rookie defensive end Josh Mauro heading to the practice squad if he makes it through waivers.

Mauro makes the team if he plays well in the Steelers’ final two preseason games and the Steelers carry seven defensive linemen.

If that is the case the Steelers will have a tough cut to make at inside linebacker, the deepest position on the team. Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams and Sean Spence are locks to make the team. The final spot, with the Steelers now unlikely to keep six players at inside linebacker, will come down to Terence Garvin and Jordan Zumwalt.

Garvin, who made the Steelers as an undrafted rookie last season, clearly has the edge here. He has played well and is valuable on special teams while Zumwalt has been hampered by a groin injury.

The rookie sixth-round pick out will be held out of the Steelers’ third preseason game Thursday night in Philadelphia, making it imperative that Zumwalt play -- and play well -- in the Steelers’ final preseason game on Aug. 28 against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

The addition of Keisel also could mean that the Steelers carry only 10 defensive backs on the 53-man roster.

If they go with five cornerbacks and five safeties, rookie Shaquille Richardson is the odd man out. Richardson, a fifth-round draft pick, won’t play against the Eagles because of a knee injury and he is in a similar situation as Zumwalt.

If the Steelers keep six cornerbacks and only four safeties Robert Golden is probably the odd man out, though the team could part ways with veteran Will Allen.

The emergence of Shamarko Thomas could make Allen expendable, though the latter is a Mike Tomlin guy and is likely to make the team.