LATROBE, Pa. – He didn't know it at the time, but Andy Weidl has been preparing for this job his entire life.
The title Weidl currently carries is Assistant General Manager, and the job description boils down to something along the lines of "putting your hand in the pile and doing whatever is necessary to help the Steelers win a seventh Lombardi Trophy" with the unspoken understanding that "the sooner the better."
Being born and raised in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., a suburb just south of Pittsburgh, ingrained in him an understanding of what the Steelers are about and what they mean to all of Western Pennsylvania. Breaking into the NFL as an intern in the Steelers scouting department exposed him to Bill Nunn and Tom Donahoe; working for the New Orleans Saints introduced him to Omar Khan; working for the Baltimore Ravens gave him a front-row seat into the way Ozzie Newsome operated; and his time with the Philadelphia Eagles provided him with a practical exposure to what analytics can bring to modern scouting and team-building.
And what Weidl was able to cobble together from all of those interactions at all of those places allowed him to gain an understanding of what it takes to win in the NFL.
"The thing we found was a selflessness of the players and the love they had for one another," said Weidl. "Obviously you have to have the talent, but when you have that kind of chemistry in your locker room, you know you're able to overcome the adversity that comes with the season. If you look at the adversity the Ravens had in that 2012 season, what the Eagles had to overcome in 2017 with the injuries to Carson Wentz and Jason Peters, a lot of guys stepped up, and you saw the veterans come back and help the younger guys out. You know, when you have that love for one another, and that selflessness, you can go forward and you can overcome those setbacks."
Weidl was a part of the 2012 Ravens who won Super Bowl XLVII and the 2017 Eagles who won Super Bowl LII, and while he never was a part of any of the six Super Bowls the Steelers have won, he does now walk past those six Lombardi Trophies at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the way to the part of the second floor that now contains his office. Weidl gets it.
"It means a little bit more," said Weidl. "You're from here. You grew up here, your roots are here. You don't want to disappoint. I know I feel that way, growing up here as a Steelers fan, you know this is a great opportunity. And to me, this organization is the gold standard of gold standards, and you have an expectation and a standard to live up to. Coach Tomlin talks about it all the time, and we have to make sure we're doing our part in this. We've talked about the goal here, and the goal here is to win No. 7, and it's important, and we're going to pour everything we have into it. It means a little bit more when you're from the area and you work for this team."
Understanding the goal is the start, but maybe more important is implementing procedures that will allow reaching the goal to morph from theoretical to realistic. The Eagles are big on analytics, as an example, and Weidl saw that aspect of the business up close during his time there. Might that become a bigger part of how the process is conducted in Pittsburgh now that he works for the Steelers?
"I think if (analytics is) applied, and you can find the usefulness, it's a tool," said Weidl. "It's not the end-all be-all, but there are things you can find that will be helpful, maybe just little things here and there. There's so much data, there's so many stats right now that you can get inundated with it, and I think the key is to find the important things, find the important data, and how you can apply it to what's important to your team."
Weidl believes he has an inherent understanding of what's important to the Steelers as they work to build a roster capable of competing for, and ultimately winning a championship, because he has seen first-hand how those characteristics and qualities work in other places.
"To me, it's everybody working together as one for the common goal," said Weidl. "You have alignment and everybody's pulling in the same direction. And when you have that, you've also got to have the talent. You got to have the right people on the bus, and when you have that and everyone's going in the same direction, that's when you can achieve greatness. That's when we can overcome. Like I said, you could overcome adversity, injuries, things happening. A tough, resilient team – the Steelers had those kinds of players when I was here. The teams' records were 6-10 and 7-9 those two seasons, but you saw a veteran Dermontti Dawson, a veteran Jerome Bettis, a young Hines Ward. Man, those guys are tough, resilient, you couldn't break those guys. Joey Porter, Aaron Smith. I was here those two years and watching those guys grow in the league. Looking back, it's how they acted and handled themselves. I always thought back to that, those guys were some of the ultimate warriors, the best warriors this league has seen."
Once upon a time, a young coach named Chuck Noll told a scout who would end up enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame named Bill Nunn, "You know what athletes look like. Bring me athletes, and we'll teach them how to play."
Today, 50-plus years and six Super Bowl championships later, new Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl knows what he and the scouts are looking for, and he understands the job is to bring them to the Steelers.
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