Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street
Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?
It was difficult to identify the highlight of the night; it can be that way when Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Mike Tomlin, Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel, Donnie Iris and Shawn Michaels, among others, are sharing the same stage.
But what resonated was unmistakable: Pittsburgh really is someplace special.
Why else would Keisel, a native of Greybull, Wyo., not only embrace Pittsburgh as his adopted home but also enthusiastically recruit other potential converts?
It goes beyond the 12 seasons Keisel spent playing for the Steelers, a run that included the Steelers appearing in three Super Bowls and winning two Lombardi trophies.
It goes beyond Keisel’s commitment to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, a cause for which he has long been a champion.
Keisel has been an ex-Steeler for two seasons.
But he’s still able to raise in the neighborhood of $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event Keisel himself characterizes as “strange,” one that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave.
Where else in the world might something such as that happen?
“I still have some property in Wyoming,” Keisel allowed on Monday night, just prior to “Shear Da Beard VII,” at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, in Warrendale. “Wyoming was home for a long time, but Pittsburgh just became my home. It became where my children were born. It became a place where I wanted to raise my children. It’s a great, great, great city. It’s just a special place to me.
“I want to teach my kids that and others that. I want to bring more people to Pittsburgh and show them how great it is.”
That process is already well underway.
Michaels, “The Heartbreak Kid” from wrestling fame (the original “HBK”), was on hand because of his friendship with Keisel, a relationship that originally began through social media and then grew when Michaels came to Pittsburgh last spring to watch the “HBK Line” lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
That led to Hagelin, Bonino and Kessel becoming involved in the seventh annual shearing of the beard.
The event’s Steelers’ presence also included General Manager Kevin Colbert, assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, tight ends coach James Daniel and current players Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Cam Heyward and Greg Warren.
Former Steelers who showed up included Chris Hoke, Charlie Batch, Shaun Suisham, Matt Spaeth, Doug Legursky and Heath Miller, in what might have been his first public Pittsburgh appearance since his retirement following the 2015 season.
The approximately 500 people in attendance up couldn’t get enough.
Neither could Michaels.
“The fan base y’all have here is unlike a lot of other places and it’s pretty darn special,” the San Antonio native maintained.
Added Keisel: “I keep waiting for like two people to come and I can pull them up on stage and go, ‘Alright, you guys can cut the beard.’”
Instead, “Shear Da Beard” is growing like Keisel’s incomparable facial hair.
And the approximately $300,000 the first seven shearing sessions have raised for Children’s Hospital has Keisel appreciating his adopted hometown more than ever.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Pittsburgh, the fans base is unbelievable. And really, that’s why I continue to do it ever year. I know they will come out and support it. I know they will come support Children’s Hospital the way they do for all the other organizations who are doing things.
“We just really, truly have a special fan group here.”