Steelers News

Andy Weidl Not Just A Trenches Guy, Omar Khan Says: ‘He’s Got A Lot Of Niches’

The start of the NFL new league year is imminent and with it free agency, but formal discussions between teams and player representatives begin days earlier than that. It’s not clear exactly how much cap space the Pittsburgh Steelers will have by then, depending on what they decide to do, but they are not expected to be as active as they were a year ago.

Many believe that the front office will make the offensive and defensive lines a priority this offseason. Part of the reason is because that is what new assistant general manager Andy Weidl is perceived to have prioritized before coming here. general manager Omar Khan doesn’t believe it’s that simple.

Andy’s got a lot of niches”, he said at the podium during the NFL Scouting Combine last month, via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “I’ve known Andy for a long time and we’ve talked about different priorities. I’d say he’s got a lot of niches”.

The Steelers signed two starting offensive linemen in free agency last year, which is not a route they often take unless it becomes necessary. They signed Trai Turner in June 2021, for example, after learning that David DeCastro’s ankle was injured in such a way that would prevent him from playing that season.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t draft offensive linemen, though they haven’t drafted one earlier than the third round since 2012. And they’ve only drafted one as early as the third round twice since then, with Chukwuma Okorafor in 2018 and Kendrick Green in 2021.

The defensive line hasn’t faired much better, with only one selection in the top two rounds since 2011, that being Stephon Tuitt in the second round in 2014. They used a third-round pick last year on DeMarvin Leal, and on Javon Hargrave, but that was back in 2016.

At the same time, for most of that time they have had stability on the offensive and defensive lines. It wasn’t so long ago—2020 in fact—that they were regarded as having one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and they had sent three different offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl.

I think it would be hard for them to make the argument now that either side of the ball is currently a finished product, though, and Khan acknowledged that when they have been successful in the past, it has always started in the trenches.

“Our winning teams [have] always been the O-line, and the D-line, and the big guys”, he said when he was asked a question about Weidl’s success with the Eagles and the perception of their value of those areas. “I can’t speak for Philadelphia, but I think that was a big part of theirs also”.

It may have been, but they’ll have to prove that it still is by making the investment. Cameron Heyward is getting old, Tyson Alualu is likely to retire, Tuitt already has. Who is going to play at left defensive end or nose tackle?

And is Dan Moore Jr. going to be your left tackle? For how long? Is Kevin Dotson the answer at left guard? How many of these starting five linemen are of a satisfactory level? And how do the potential needs here weigh against the needs elsewhere on the roster?

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