Football footnotes: Eric Weddle to Steelers sounds better than it really is
Sports Illustrated mentioned the Steelers as a potential destination for free agent safety Eric Weddle. We did the same thing here at “Breakfast With Benz” two days ago when word came out that Weddle was going to be released by Baltimore.
Weddle is a Mike Tomlin favorite, and the Steelers could use another safety given Morgan Burnett’s stated desire for a trade.
Plus, it’d be fun to steal a popular former Raven away from Baltimore. And this city is long overdue for a beard like Brett Keisel’s again.
The problem is, I don’t think signing Weddle would be very smart.
Here is the rationale Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit advanced for why Pittsburgh would be a good fit for the 34-year-old.
“Because they’re so weak at linebacker, (the Steelers) badly want a dime safety who can play in the box, allowing either Jon Bostic or Vince Williams to leave the field. Ex-Packer Morgan Burnett can be that guy, but injuries made him a week-to-week mystery last year. Weddle isn’t a box player, but second-year safety Terrell Edmunds could slide there, with Weddle playing back deep. Plus, the Steelers wouldn’t mind a veteran who has intimate knowledge of their rival Ravens.”
That last line resonates. In fact, I’d extend that thought to say that Weddle knows the Bengals and Browns, too.
Weddle is also known as a good locker room guy. He and Ben Roethlisberger are good friends as well.
It’s clear the Steelers’ front office is doing whatever it can to support its star quarterback in the wake of all the criticism he has taken this offseason about his leadership. The team is taking steps to surround him with guys who want to follow his lead. Evidence of that is the organization extending Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey and putting a second-round tender on B.J. Finney.
Each of those players is part of an offensive line that has always vocally backed Big Ben. Weddle would be a step in that direction on the defense.
However, football-wise, it makes a lot less sense.
Weddle is slowing. As Benoit also writes, “At 34, his speed and quickness have diminished, and he’s no longer the soundest tackler.” Well, that’s a sales job, indeed, to a defense desperate to force more turnovers.
In 16 games, Weddle had no interceptions, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries and a career-low three pass breakups.
Also, the way that first passage in Benoit’s piece lays out the case to bring Weddle to Heinz Field, I almost see it as an argument against doing so.
Burnett was another aging, but intelligent, safety considered a good fit to play a dime backer. That didn’t work out. Why would it work for Weddle, who would be coming in five years older?
Furthermore, as the article points out, if Terrell Edmunds were to be moved into that spot permanently — although he may just be deployed at the strong safety — Tomlin and Keith Butler shouldn’t stunt his growth after Edmunds had a decent rookie season.
And if Weddle is slowing, why ask him to range deep and cover more ground? I’d also argue that Sean Davis took to that aspect of playing free safety better than I expected last season.
In general, I think the smarter move by the Steelers is to get an inside linebacker to play inside linebacker instead of a safety playing as a fish-out-of-water.
Hey, I wonder if the Ravens have any free-agent inside linebackers available that the Steelers could snatch away instead of Weddle.
Can you think of any?
Yeah. Yeah. I know. C.J. Mosley is going to cost a lot more. And he may simply flirt with the Steelers and go back to his home team like Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower did.
But I’d rather see the Steelers try harder, and spend more, on Mosley than grab Weddle as a role player.
Bench safeties should usually be fast, versatile guys who can fly down the field on special teams, too. And I doubt that’s Weddle’s forte at this stage of his career.
Simply put, the idea of signing Weddle is more fun than it is practical. And he is the wrong Raven to look at on defense.