The Steelers secondary has struggled in recent years, especially in the wake of the decline and retirement of safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor. The Steelers need to add depth to their corps of defensive backs. Chargers safety Eric Weddle is a talented safety who has been in the NFL since 2007 when he was drafted in the second round.
Is Weddle the solution to the Steelers problems?
Bryan DeArdo: The Steelers should sign safety Eric Weddle
I think the Steelers should strongly consider signing Eric Weddle. While the team does have some young, budding stars, the Steelers are in "win now" mode, as Ben Roethlisberger will be 34 years old and entering his 13th NFL season this fall.
That being said, signing the 31-year-old Weddle makes sense. He's a proven veteran that has been praised in the past by Mike Tomlin for his instincts and overall approach to the position. Weddle is a very intelligent player, and should be able to mesh well with free safety Mike Mitchell and the rest of Pittsburgh's defensive backs.
While I wouldn't be opposed to the team drafting a safety--Ohio State's Vonn Bell, for example--the team could use a veteran presence at safety that won't need to go through the transition from adjusting to the pro game. Weddle could contribute right away, while the team could still have Robert Golden--who played well when called upon in 2015--seeing spot duty in the secondary.
Along with his intangibles, Weddle brings intangibles similar to the ones that DeAngelo Williams brought to Pittsburgh last season. Like Williams, Weddle is playing to win a Super Bowl ring after nine seasons without much playoff success in San Diego. Weddle would bring the attitude and energy conducive to winning, something that is always embraced in a city where winning championships is the standard, as well as the expectation.
Dani Bostick: The Steelers should not sign Eric Weddle
Weddle is one of the best safeties in the NFL today. His storied career has spanned a decade and has included five Pro Bowls, 849 tackles, 71 passes defensed, 19 interceptions, five forced fumbles, and four touchdowns. At 31, Weddle brings veteran experience and impressive statistics to the table, but he also brings several risks worth considering.
Though safeties can have long careers, Weddle's best years are likely behind him. Troy Polamalu retired in 2014 at the age of 33 after 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu was Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. That was one of his best seasons ever, but also the beginning of his decline. He missed half of the 2012 season with a calf injury. In 2013 he made several brilliant plays, but overall the magic of Troy Polamalu had largely faded at that point.
Weddle had a weak 2015 season, and given his age, there is no guarantee that he will bounce back and be the difference-maker that the Steelers so desperately need. Weddle has also struggled with injury. With Mike Mitchell finally healthy, do the Steelers really want to bring someone on board who ended up on injured reserve last season? There are too many risks and unknowns given the salary Weddle is likely to demand.
Instead of signing Weddle, the Steelers should pad their secondary with younger talent. In football years, Weddle is already old. The 2016 draft class is fraught with talent at secondary, and it is important to note that Weddle, one of the best safeties in recent years, was a second round pick. Ideally, the Steelers will draft wisely and find the future of the secondary in a young player, instead of relying on someone who was great once upon a time.
This season, the Steelers will see if their 2015 second-round draft pick, cornerback Senquez Golson, lives up to the hype. They will also need to evaluate whether or not it is wise to replace Carnell Lake with a more effective defensive backs coach.
Weddle is an awesome safety, but he represents the league's past, not its future. The Steelers recently lost several defensive backs to retirement. It doesn't make sense to bring a player aboard who will delay the procurement and development of younger talent. The Steelers cannot afford such an expensive, high-risk gamble at this point.