It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers assistant general manager Andy Weidl has a history of finding talented offensive and defensive linemen from his time working with the Philadelphia Eagles. Weidl’s first draft as a member of the Steelers front office just concluded, and it was a draft that saw the Steelers take two offensive linemen, a defensive lineman, and a blocking tight end in Darnell Washington, who’s billed as “The Sixth Offensive Lineman.” Weidl, talking to the media today, explained why he believes it’s so important to build a football team from the trenches.
“I think it starts up front. It’s football. I was an offensive lineman, and I know when you are strong up front, you can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, you’ve got a chance to win games,” Weidl said via transcript provided by the team. “If you are strong on the offensive line, you are strong on your defensive line, you are strong in your front seven, they travel well in this business. I’ve seen it. You have to go win a game late in the season or you have to go on the road and win a playoff game, they usually show up. I believe in that, and we believe in that. You build through the lines. You invest in that. That’s football. That’s always going to be football in our mind, the line of scrimmage.”
When the Steelers have been a Super Bowl contender, it’s usually because the offensive line and defensive lines have been among the league’s best. In recent years, the Steelers have had a pretty strong front seven but have lacked talent along the offensive line. The second half of last season was the best the Steelers’ offensive line has played in years. A big part of that was due to the continuity of the group, as the same five guys started every single game.
The talent still needed an upgrade, and this offseason the Steelers signed a new starter in guard Isaac Seumalo, drafted a potential starter in first-round pick Broderick Jones and added depth in the form of Nate Herbig and seventh-round draft pick Spencer Anderson. The team also inherently gets deeper with Jones presumably replacing incumbent left tackle Dan Moore Jr., who then moves to become the team’s backup swing tackle. Moore would be an upgrade over LeRaven Clark, a veteran who the team signed for that role after Trent Scott left in free agency.
On the defensive line, the Steelers added valuable depth with the signings of Breiden Fehoko and Armon Watts, while drafting Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton in the second round. It’s clear that the main emphasis this offseason was to build up both lines and be that sort of team that can control the line of scrimmage and punch its opponents in the mouth early and often. Weidl framed it best in his press conference when he said the Steelers are going to “break the will of other teams.” They got a lot of big, physical players all over the field, not just in the trenches, and the Steelers should look to be bullies all year long.
It’s going to be fun to watch the Steelers play this year. An increase of 12 personnel, an improved offensive line, a lot of big dudes on the defensive line and a revamped linebacker corps should make this team better than it was last season. Factor in the expected progression of quarterback Kenny Pickett, and the Steelers could compete for an AFC North title in 2023. If one thing is for sure, it’s that it’s an exciting time to be a Steelers fan.