The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in-house to succeed Kevin Colbert, choosing Omar Khan as his replacement, a man who has spent 21 years with the team. An internal hire made the most sense, especially considering the switch was made after free agency and the draft, a critical and significant offseason that saw the team draft a first-round quarterback for the first time since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
But Khan wasn’t the only front office move the team’s made. They paired him with Philadelphia Eagles’ VP of Player Personnel Andy Weidl, a Pittsburgh native coming home to serve as the team’s assistant GM. So what are the Steelers getting with Weidl?
Today, we’re going to discuss Weidl’s background. How he grew up, who he is, and the core of his scouting and player philosophy that will offer clues to how he’ll help construct the Steelers’ roster. I’ve combed through as many podcasts, interviews, articles, newspaper clippings, and bios to find out as much as I can about who the Steelers hired.
Here are the sources I used for this article.
Andy Weidl’s way: The lessons that will guide his biggest Eagles draft yet – April 2020 (The Athletic)
A Passion For The Game – March 2015 (Mt. Lebanon Magazine)
2021 Pre-Draft Interview – April 2021 (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Journey To The Draft Podcast – June 2020 (Philadelphia Eagles’ YouTube Channel)
2021 Pre-Draft Press Conference – April 2021 (Philadelphia Eagles’ YouTube Channel)
2020 Pre-Draft Interview – April 2020 (Philadelphia Eagles’ YouTube Channel)
Brotherly Love At Super Bowl LII – January 2018 (The Almanac)
Eagles’ Media Guide Bio
Ravens’ Media Guide Bio
As you may know by now, Weidl is a Pittsburgh man. Born in the area, he grew up and has spent a good chunk of his life in the state, especially in Western PA. He also comes from a sports family that basically bleeds football and black and gold. Casey Weidl is the most well-known brother and the two worked together through this season in Philadelphia before Casey was let go by the team and Andy was hired by Pittsburgh. But there’s also Kevin Weidl, a former starting QB at IUP who spent a decade in the media sphere, first at Scouts Inc. and then writing for ESPN up until December of 2014, the date the last article with his name in the byline appears. He is now a Southeast/Midwest area scout for the Baltimore Ravens.
There’s also Brennan Weidl, one of the few brothers not in the football world. But in the most Pittsburgh thing ever, he has a daughter named Rooney, which I have to think is influenced by his Pittsburgh roots. Brennan works in a high-level position for PNC Bank.
The family loves sports so much that the Weidl brothers once skipped out on their homecoming dance to go to Mellon Arena for a Pens game against the Rangers to watch Mario Lemieux faceoff against Wayne Gretzky.
Weidl grew up playing tight end and linebacker in high school. He committed and played his college ball at Villanova, bulking up to play offensive guard. The Pittsburgh Steelers became his first NFL job, hired as an intern for 1998-1999. Former Steelers’ executive Charles Bailey was the man who interviewed and hired him. Weidl’s said his job, like most internships, was doing a lot of the grunt work, like driving to and from the airport in his 1991 Chevy Lumina (McLumina owners unite!) to pick up players and prospects and drive them to the Steelers’ facility.
Weidl’s internship ended one week after Kevin Colbert was hired. From there, he joined the New Orleans Saints, working with Omar Khan for one year, and serving as the team’s National Combine Scout. He became their Northeast area scout for 2003-2004. Baltimore hired him as a West area scout in 2005 and in 2009, they switched him to cover the northeast in 2009 to 2012. He was promoted to East Regional Scout in 2013. During his time there, he got to work with legendary GM Ozzie Newsome and because area scouts work remotely in the areas they’re assigned, he actually still lived in Pittsburgh during the years he covered the Northeast/East. So he’s been in Pittsburgh more recently than you might think.
His big break came in 2016, hired by the Eagles as their Assistant Director of Player Personnel. and that’s when he relocated to South Jersey. In 2018, the team dropped his “assistant” title and after the 2019 draft, he was named Vice President of Player Personnel, essentially running the Eagles last three draft classes. During his time with the Eagles, Weidl’s said he’s seen the bigger picture of how the front office operates, especially in regards to salary cap management, as opposed to when he was insulated as a scout working remotely. That’ll help with his transition into his new assistant GM role.
Weidl’s Coaching Influences
Weidl’s gotten to work with some great minds over his 25 year football career. He’s had a long relationship with fellow Pittsburgh native Tom Donahoe, who ran the Steelers for years until losing the power struggle to Bill Cowher following the 1999 season. Weidl’s known Donahoe since he was in the eighth grade, working at his summer camps. In fact, Donahoe and Weidl’s father played high school football together at Mt. Lebanon. Weidl has later called Donahoe “instrumental” in shaping his football philosophy and career and the two most recently worked together in Philadelphia. Neither are still with the organization.
With Weidl working for the Steelers in 1998-1999, he’s cited Bill Nunn as one of his mentors and once called him “one of the best scouts ever.”
Nunn’s advice, which Weidl still mentions today, was to find out how a player handles criticism. Their mental toughness and ability to rise to the moment or bounce back from a tough play or performance.
He learned a great deal from Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. One quote Weidl has mentioned in past press conferences came from Newsome.
“Know what you’re looking at and what you’re looking for.”
That’s now part of his regular scouting language, just as Mike Tomlin’s “if you have red paint, paint the barn read,” comes from Don Shula/Kevin Colbert (Colbert got that from Shula when he worked for the Dolphins in the mid-late 90s).
Jim Harbaugh brought a similar message in Baltimore saying to look for players with tough skin “like an armadillo.” His time in Baltimore and Philadelphia also introduced him to the analytical world. Those two organizations have been at the forefront of focusing on numbers forming their draft plan. It’s fair to say Weidl will bring some of that to Pittsburgh.
Finally, Weidl has also mentioned former Saints’ head coach (and Steelers’ DC during Weidl’s internship) Jim Haslett as one of his greatest influences.
Weidl has mentioned he loves scouting offensive linemen the most because he was a former lineman in college. He’s said he had to learn about scouting the secondary, corners and safeties, the most over the course of his career. By now, I assume he’s up to speed.
Those who have worked with Weidl have spoken incredibly high of him. Current Jets’ GM Joe Douglas called Weidl “as consistent of an evaluator as you’ll ever find” while also referring to him as “direct, honest, and fair.”
Weidl has a long reputation of being a man of courage and conviction and will go to bat for a player when he loves a guy, likening it to a lawyer making the case for his client. The player he went to bat for the most was Oregon NT Haloti Ngata, who the Ravens took 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. Good move, thanks to Weidl.
Now-Ravens’ GM Eric Decosta called him “one of the most thorough guys” he’s ever been around.
Weidl’s Drafting/Player Philosophy
As a scout, Weidl referred to his job being an extension of the coaching staff and finding players who fit the coaches program. That may change a bit with Weidl closer to the top of the organizational food chain but it all works under the idea of how the coaches will use them and to target players who best maximize the current offensive/defensive scheme.
Weidl has talked about physical and mental toughness a lot throughout the course of his career. That may have something to do with the start of his NFL journey. The first draft class Weidl was apart of came in 1998 when the Steelers drafted LSU OG Alan Faneca and Georgia WR Hines Ward two rounds later. Two of the toughest, most physical players players of their era.
He’s also referred back to guys like Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce as Eagles’ players who share that toughness. He certainly seems to like his o-line to be big, tough, and versatile. He says he’s “drawn to” players who exhibit toughness and are “physical warriors.”
Versatility is something Weidl’s also preached a lot over the years. The typical important phrases like “the more hats you wear, the more value you bring.” It’s something they cited in taking Landon Dickerson last year.
Weidl shares a common scouting philosophy of focusing on what players can do and how they win as opposed to what they can’t do. He also didn’t seem beholden to the cookie-cutter size and build of a prospect.
“Great players come in any shape and size,” he told The Athletic in 2020.
He also wants guys who love the game, someone who has a passion for it. “Tough, smart, thick-skin, and mentally strong” are the words he’s used to describe players who fit his culture.
He also subscribes to the “best player available” theory and that a position that looks strong can quickly become a need.
Weidl also seems to prefer speed on both sides of the ball but especially defensively. He talked about how speed helps a defense “swarm” and that the NFL is asking players to cover more space. Mobile quarterbacks also require team speed defensively to chase them down and the Steelers are in an AFC North with mobile to highly mobile quarterbacks.
In terms of his scouting process, in a 2020 piece, he says he watched at least 3-4 games from the current season and 1-2 games from the year before. It’s actually a pretty similar process to what we do. He said he knows he likes a prospect if he wants to keep watching and is excited to get to the next game, once citing how much fun he had watching JJ Watt coming out of Wisconsin.
With Weidl in semi-charge of the Eagles’ last three drafts, 2020 to 2022 (Howie Roseman had final say but Weidl was apparently the dude who ran the draft and draft process) we can evaluate what those drafts have looked like and how Pittsburgh may – broadly speaking – operate under him and Khan.
Here are the Eagles draft classes.
Round 1: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Round 2: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Round 3: Davion Taylor, OLB, Colorado
Round 4: K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
Round 4: Jack Driscoll, OT, Auburn
Round 5: John Hightower, WR, Boise State
Round 6: Shaun Bradley, LB Temple
Round 6: Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss
Round 6: Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
Round 7: Casey Toohill, OLB, Stanford
Round 1: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Round 2: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
Round 3: Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech
Round 4: Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech
Round 5: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Round 6: Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC
Round 6: Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina
Round 6: JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
Round 7: Patrick Johnson, OLB, Tulane
Round 1: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Round 2: Cameron Jurgens, C, Nebraska
Round 3: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Round 6: Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas
Round 6: Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU
While Weidl can’t be responsible for all these picks, he wasn’t the GM, there are a couple of trends worth noting.
– Lots of trades. In 2020, the Eagles made ten selections. In 2021, they made nine. Only five in 2022 but they had two first round picks on draft night, traded up in the first round, and then traded their other first round to the Titans for AJ Brown.
– Speedy receivers. Jalen Reagor (4.47 40 at 206 pounds), Quez Watkins (4.35 40) and Devonta Smith (no official 40 time but roughly mid 4.4’s). Goes back to Weidl’s comments about the speed of the game we wrote about earlier.
– Athletic big men. Dickerson was an impressive athlete, Davis is a literal unicorn, and Jurgens was one of the most athletic offensive linemen to come out of this year’s draft (9.94 RAS score).
– Late-round pass rushers. Taking shots on defensive end/edge types late in all three of these drafts in Casey Toohill (7th Round), Tarron Jackson (6th Round), and Patrick Johnson (7th Round), and Kyron Johnson (6th Round). So get ready for some late round EDGE help in 2023.
Lot to take in and we’re not going to be able to map out the Steelers’ future moves based off this collection of past, public comments. Weidl isn’t dumb and he isn’t spilling all his secrets in press conferences. In fact, he was pretty guarded and tight-lipped in the podcasts and interviews I referenced.
But hopefully this offers some insight into Weidl’s background, makeup, and philosophy. It’s hard to judge career front office personnel but this is worth revisiting over the next couple months until we start seeing the moves the team actually makes.