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Chris Mueller: Weidl's influence over offseason a good sign for Steelers

FILE - Philadelphia Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo (56) plays during an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed longtime Philadelphia Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo to a three-year, $24 million contract. The deal, announced Tuesday, March 21, 2023, fortifies the interior of the Steelers offensive line as Pittsburgh builds around second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.(AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File)

The splashy portion of free agency is over, and the Steelers’ moves have driven home one thing above all else: Assistant general manager Andy Weidl has real power, and he’s not shy about using it.

Weidl’s fingerprints are all over everything that has been done to reshape the roster, particularly the offensive line. New guards Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo are Weidl guys from his days running the Eagles’ player personnel department.

Seumalo slots in as an immediate starter and run-game mauler, and Herbig is quality depth for a team that almost certainly will not have the health luck they did across all five positions last year. Both men bring positional versatility as well.

New linebacker Cole Holcomb is an NFC East guy that Weidl was likely very familiar with, as he saw him twice a year.

There were other moves, of course, like the splashy signing of future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Peterson to play corner, and Brian Flores disciple Elandon Roberts to fill the void at inside linebacker created by Robert Spillane’s departure, but the totality of what the Steelers have done thus far, and what it means big picture are what matters to me.

There were questions about how much influence Weidl would have when he was hired, given the Steelers’ well-earned reputation as a franchise that frequently looked inward to fill front-office vacancies, and was wary of too many outside voices entering the mix.

So far, it’s clear that Weidl’s work with the Eagles preemptively earned the trust of Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney. He isn’t just being tasked with creating the Steelers’ draft board and then letting Khan and Tomlin take over. He’s so far been given the freedom and influence to change the way the Steelers look.

Their offensive line looks better, despite there still being a clear need for better talent at both tackle spots, and in signing Holcomb and Roberts, the Steelers have addressed off-ball linebacker without using premium capital, be it draft picks or money. That latter reality is as it should be, particularly given the way the Steelers’ efforts to replace Ryan Shazier have blown up in their face.

That’s Weidl’s influence, combined perhaps with Khan’s analytical approach undercutting the notion that inside linebacker is a position worth a premium spend.

In other words, things really have changed in the first year post-Kevin Colbert.

Tomlin, whose power over personnel decisions changed depending on who you talked to and whether or not a pick or signing was good or bad – helpful key: if bad, Tomlin’s doing; if good, Colbert’s, patent absurdity of such mental gymnastics be damned – has to be on board with what Weidl has done thus far.

We know that for all the absurd hand wringing that does go on about Tomlin’s level of influence, he does legitimately have plenty of it, deservedly so, and he would presumably have to sign off on just about any move. After all, what good does it do to bring in a player that your coach doesn’t want?

That tells me that he likes what Weidl is doing and that if anything was getting stale about the Steelers’ roster-building methods over the last few years, it was Tomlin and Colbert’s close friendship occasionally drifting into too much groupthink, the sometimes sharp edges of debate sanded down by an abundance of time spent together.

There’s a new voice in the room, calling different shots, targeting different players, prioritizing different things, and everyone is rolling with it.

The Steelers look like a better team than they did at the end of last season, if for no other reason than their resource allocation looks better. They’re building depth in the trenches and taking on the kind of smart, calculated risks – like a team-friendly two-year deal for Peterson that could easily turn into a one-year pact – that smart teams take.

In other words, you can’t judge the performance until you actually see it, but the process sure looks better from where I sit.

I chalk a lot of that up to Weidl. The Eagles had the best roster, top to bottom, in the NFL last year. They got beat by the Chiefs mainly because Kansas City has a human cheat code at quarterback, and the best offensive mind in the last 30 years calling the plays.

Kenny Pickett might end up being really good, but his ceiling looks like a clear step below what Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen are capable of. If the Steelers are going to challenge teams like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Buffalo and the rest of the loaded AFC’s best, they’re going to need the kind of overall quality and depth that Philadelphia possessed.

So far, I’m encouraged by Andy Weidl’s first moves towards that goal, and the fact that he’s been empowered to make them.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Mueller: Weld's influence over offseason a good sign for Steelers