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Steelers cope with loss; Keisel says beard 'coming off soon'

PITTSBURGH -- With his season over, Brett Keisel is ready to scrap his scruffy style.

Forget "Fear the Beard."

Much to the disappointment of the bushy growth's nearly 30,000 Facebook fans, it's time to "Shear the Beard."

"It's coming off soon," Keisel said Tuesday outside the Steelers' practice facility. "I'm not exactly sure when or how it's going to happen. But it's going to come off soon. It was a good thing. I think looking back, I wouldn't change it."

Win or lose the Super Bowl, Keisel's lumberjack look was in for a makeover.

Keisel had promised not to cut or trim the reddish-brown beard as long as the Steelers kept winning. So, Keisel can bust out the clippers this week, though his full-bodied facial hair surely would have kept him warm during a Super Bowl parade that would have been held on a frigid Tuesday had the Steelers defeated the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Instead, Keisel's whiskers will soon swirl down the drain like the Steelers' championship dreams.

Keisel and the Steelers had one final team meeting Tuesday, determined to put their crushing Super Bowl loss behind them. Players stuffed belongings in black trash bags and zoomed off into an uncertain offseason.

Almost 48 hours after the loss, coach Mike Tomlin met with the Steelers and told them the franchise remains committed toward winning the Lombardi Trophy.

Tomlin also addressed some various rules and restrictions that would come if owners decide to move ahead with a lockout. The Steelers, like most NFL players, are worried about what will happen with organized team activities, minicamps, health insurance and other necessities when the collective bargaining agreement expires March 3.

"Hey man, you better save some money, just in case," defensive end Nick Eason said. "A lot of things have changed. I mean, we've been taken care of through our health insurance, and things like that, and we're going to have that no longer. So it's time to save, time to not buy cars and spend money."

Tomlin, of course, wasn't around to talk about the meeting. Same with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers let two players -- wide receiver Antwaan Randle El and nose tackle Chris Hoke -- talk to the media at the podium.

About an hour after the meeting ended, Tomlin walked out of a side door of the practice facility wearing a scarf and his AFC champions ballcap, but no coat, on a brisk day where the wind chill was below zero.

Tomlin waved before he slipped into his sport-utility vehicle and backed it up to the doors of the practice facility to load some belongings. He then tipped his cap as he drove out of the parking lot.

Inside team headquarters, the Steelers' six Super Bowl trophies stand together along the wall leading to various offices. The 31-25 loss to the Packers assured there will be no more additions to that collection this offseason.

Hoke, a free agent after 10 years with the Steelers, was a key component in their last two championships. And, of course, he expected to extend the perfect record Sunday.

"I'm glad we won the first two, because I don't how you deal with it," Hoke said. "It makes you so much happier you won the first two. It's tough to lose Super Bowls. You get there, you dream of being on top of that podium holding that trophy, passing it around, celebrating with your teammates."

Hoke hopes to return and expects to find most of his teammates back with him for the new season -- whenever that starts. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley and cornerback Ike Taylor are two top free agents, and the Steelers want to re-sign both.

Under the Rooney family, the Steelers have long been fond of stability. And Art Rooney already has said not to expect many changes.

Who knows? Maybe Keisel's mangy mane might be the biggest offseason transformation.

"It was a lot of fun, and I think a lot of people had a good time with it," Keisel said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully I can grow another one."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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