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Keisel Shears Da Beard for Charity
Only in Pittsburgh would fans don their Steelers jerseys, get a “defense” chant going and loudly cheer on players and coaches as they shaved a teammate’s beard.
That is what a packed house did at Diesel Club Lounge on Thursday night when Brett Keisel took part in the second annual “Shear Da Beard,” shaving off the popular beard he has been growing since this past summer.
“You wouldn’t be able to go to too many cities and say ‘What are you doing tonight? I am going down to watch a guy shave his beard,’” said Keisel. “That is what makes Pittsburgh special. They have grasped on to this idea and really made it what it is today. If the fans didn’t respond to it the way they did, I wouldn’t do it.”
The event raised money for cancer programs at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC. Keisel chose the charity after watching what teammate and close friend Aaron Smith has gone through with his son Elijah, who has battled leukemia and received treatment at Children’s Hospital.
With Elijah now recently in remission, it was only fitting that he was the first one to cut Keisel’s beard, followed by his father.
“This is unbelievable,” said Smith. “It was actually very emotional driving down here with him to do this. The difference this makes in the kids’ lives is unbelievable.
“I can’t say enough about how Elijah is doing. Just to wake up every day and thank the dear Lord for what we have. You learn to appreciate what you have and be content with what you have.”
Keisel even got emotional when introducing the Smiths, proving the bond that they have extends far beyond the football field.
“I am very close with Aaron. He is like a big brother to me,” said Keisel. “They have been through a lot and Children’s Hospital has been tremendous for them.
“Elijah is as tough as they come. That comes from his mother and father. They have done a great job raising their children. They have taught them to fight and have a great relationship with the big man upstairs and you can get through anything with his help.”
Also taking snips from Keisel’s beard were Steelers president Art Rooney II, Coach Mike Tomlin, defensive line coach John Mitchell and teammates James Harrison, Doug Legursky, Heath Miller and Chris Hoke.
Tomlin took a few snips off of Keisel’s mustache, joking about how he twirls it in the office, while Harrison took cut after cut, getting closer in on the mustache and beard with each snip of the scissors.
“It feels great,” said a clean shaven and much-younger looking Keisel afterwards. “I can feel the air against my cheek again. It feels weird. It’s strange because I have had the beard for so long.
“It was a great night down here. Pittsburgh showed up tonight and came down here to raise money for Children’s Hospital.”
Keisel got his chance to get the scissors in his hands when he got to cut off a bit of his father Lane’s beard. The two started growing their beards together on his dad’s birthday, June 25.
“We were up camping in Wyoming talking about the beard and he said Pop you have to grow one with me,” said Lane Keisel. “I told him I wouldn’t shave until he did.
“I am really proud of him because he is such a good guy and what he did this for. He is a good person and I am most proud of that.”
The evening also included a live auction of unique paintings of Keisel with the beard, and a bidding war even ensued between Smith, Harrison and Tomlin, with Tomlin winning out in the end. The best part about it, the more they bid against each other, the more the hospital benefitted.
“Tonight is very special,” said Dr. Jake Cooper, who is Elijah Smith’s physician in the oncology department at Children’s. “In a town like Pittsburgh knowing their sports heroes care about them means the world to our kids.
“It’s a pretty unique event. It’s a fun thing. It fits with the Pittsburgh mystic.”