PITTSBURGH, PA — The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to make a statement with their first round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. As the game continues to spread out and speed up, the Steelers front office and assistant general manager Andy Wiedl reminded everyone that strength still matters and that you can’t win when you’re light in the trenches.
Weidl has learned this lesson over the course of his playing career as an offensive lineman and 25 years as a scout with the Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, watching multiple teams winning teams on the back of tremendous offensive lines.
“I think it starts up front. It’s football,” Weidl said. “You’re strong on the offensive line, strong on the defensive line, strong on the front seven, they travel well in this business. I’ve seen it. You got to go win a game late in the season, go on the road in a playoff game and they usually show up.”
The decision to trade up and take Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones with the 14th overall pick of this year’s draft reflected Weidl’s notion that up front is where football games are won. The Steelers opted to take an explosive athlete with imposing size from the offensive line, reinforcing that their goal is to dominate up front for years to come.
Weidl said Jones brings a combination of strength, speed and agility that will make him a threat in whatever the Steelers want to do on offense. He can maul at the second level in the run game and, despite his above-average weight, move with the kind of fluidity that’s necessary to contain athletic edge rushers.
“He’s a guy that has tremendous feet, balance, the ability to pass protect in space and he’s also got the explosive power to displace people off the line of scrimmage,” Weidl said. “You’ve seen the highlights – he can get out there and he can do different things with his range and can open up your offense more.”
Jones will likely be tasked with all of those things and more during his time with the Steelers. Should he beat out Dan Moore Jr. for the starting left tackle spot, he has the all-important task of protecting the blindside of the Steelers’ 2022 first round pick, quarterback Kenny Pickett. He’ll join former Eagles linemen Issac Seumalo and Nate Herbig as key offseason additions to the so-called “Pickett Fence”.
This is the kind of roster building every NFL team does when they add a franchise player under center. Some might choose to add weapons in the passing game while others zero in on the protection and the Steelers chose the latter this year with an eye towards helping Pickett take a big step forward during his second season as a professional.
“Every great passing game starts with protection and we’re going to protect the quarterback and surround him with weapons,” Weidl said. “We’re always going to help [Pickett] out and surround him with talent because we believe in him as a quarterback and a person.”
This all comes back to what Weidl believes should be the Steelers’ identity. “Pittsburgh tough football” has become a tired cliche over the years but Weidl hopes to bring some real meaning back to that phrase, beginning with the additions up front.
“We want to be a big, physical team,” he said. “We’re the Pittsburgh Steelers.”