The Pittsburgh Steelers had thought that they had found their succession story at safety in the 2013 NFL Draft. So, too, had the Baltimore Ravens, with both organizations making bold moves in an effort to attempt to ease their organization’s inevitable transition from a Hall of Fame player on the back end.
In the case of the Steelers, that was strong safety Troy Polamalu, who retired following the 2014 season. Pittsburgh traded away a 2014 third-round draft pick in order to acquire a fourth-round draft pick to be granted the opportunity to select safety Shamarko Thomas, a player whom they coveted as being of much higher quality than his draft stock.
The Ravens, coming off of a Super Bowl victory, and knowing that free safety Ed Reed would not have much left himself, drafted safety Matt Elam in the first round. Thomas never even managed to crack the starting lineup due to his struggles; Elam merely struggled before being benched in 2014, and then missed the 2015 season with a torn biceps.
On top of that, the Ravens learned that Will Hill, the safety who had replaced Elam and whom they thought might have a future at the position, would be incurring yet another suspension, which would have been his third or fourth since entering the league, prompting the team to release him.
It is with this backdrop that we found these two AFC North division rivals potentially squaring off an in attempt to woo free agent All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, whose relationship with the Chargers soured by the end of his final season.
In spite of their frequent cap issues, the Steelers were tied to Weddle relatively frequently, and the fact that he was not immediately signed suggested that they might indeed have a chance to sign him. When it became apparent to them that he would be beyond their market, however, in the end, Pittsburgh never even made him an offer.
The Ravens did, and Weddle signed on the dotted line to potentially provide Baltimore the answer that the Steelers were looking for at their own back end to pair with Mike Mitchell after Thomas failed to pan out and Will Allen obviously not representing anything more than a stopgap solution.
Pittsburgh remains searching, heavily, for an answer at safety, turning over seemingly every leaf in the draft, but in the meantime, they figure to turn to fifth-year veteran Robert Golden to ease into the starting lineup after his four-game cameo in that role a year ago.
As for the Ravens, Weddle’s presence figures to do much more than simply add a quality player to the defensive backfield. His veteran leadership, experience, and mere presence will have a sort of settling effect on what has been an unstable secondary for the past few seasons—which is just what Pittsburgh was looking for.
Only not at that same price tag. But the price of not signing him now is that, rather than seeing him on a weekly basis, in a black and gold uniform, the Steelers will now be getting a look at him two or three times a year, for at least the next couple of years, donning Ravens purple.
Pittsburgh just got some of its kryptonite out of the AFC North to the AFC West when Bengals safety Reggie Nelson signed with the Raiders; now, perhaps, the AFC North has imported yet another from out west. Whether that is with key interceptions or simply preventing the Steelers from finding stability in the secondary.