While the Pittsburgh Steelers may contemplate their next GM, the heir to Kevin Colbert, it’s possible their internal list of options could get shorter during the offseason. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer put together his yearly future NFL General Manager list and it includes one member of the Steelers’ front office. That man is Omar Khan, Steelers’ VP of football and business adminsitration. Better known as the team’s “cap guy.”
Here’s what Breer writes in the mention of Khan.
“Earlier in his career, Khan was earmarked as Bill Cowher’s GM whenever Bill Cowher returned. Cowher never came back (maybe he will someday), but in the meantime Khan’s influence in the Steelers organization grew. If Kevin Colbert retires this year or next, Khan could become GM there (or maybe split the role with a personnel man like pro director Brandon Hunt). And he’s also got a relationship with Panthers owner David Tepper, who had his eyes on Andrew Berry last year and may seen Khan as a similar outside-the-box idea.”
I’ll be honest. I’m not aware of Breer’s reference to Bill Cowher’s supposed return after retiring following the 2006 season nor the idea that Khan would be his next GM when he returned to the organization. That’s news to me. But everything else Breer says is sensible. Khan has played a key role navigating the muddy cap waters for a Steelers’ team always up against the salary cap given their competitive nature and franchise QB contracts.
About a decade ago, Khan was one of the most sought after names for GM interviews. In 2010, he was a finalist for the job in Seattle, losing out to John Schenider. He had a flurry of interviews a few years later, getting a look from the Rams in 2012 and nearly landed the job with the New York Jets the following season. Ultimately, the Rams’ job went to Les Snead while the Jets picked John Idzik. Since, Khan’s name has rarely come up after Black Monday when teams clean house and begin compiling new regimes.
A Tulane graduate who got his NFL start with the New Orleans Saints, Khan’s been with the Steelers since 2001.
It was a bit surprising not to see Brandon Hunt get his own place on the list but at least Breer mentions him. Though Khan may be the most popular name tossed out when it comes to future Steelers’ GMs, Hunt may be the more likely option. Growing up in Pittsburgh just like Colbert, Hunt interned with the Steelers in 2004 and 2005, spent two years as a pro scout with the Houston Texans, and hired back by the Steelers in 2010.
Breer also makes a valid point about Tepper in Carolina. GM Marty Hurney was fired earlier this month, creating a vacancy that’ll be filled in the next few months. Tepper’s already hired one member of the Steelers’ front office. Samir Suleiman was hired this past summer to handle the cap; Suleiman had previously worked under Khan for several seasons. But it’s uncertain if Hunt would take such a big name like Khan or Hunt away from the Steelers. During the “will Mike Tomlin get traded?” nonsense last year, Tepper reportedly artfully made clear he wouldn’t do anything to overtly damage the franchise.
I was told that this very question was put to #Panthers owner David Tepper, that he was asked if he’d be willing to trade draft choices for #Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
His response, the way I was told it, was: “You think I’d (expletive) Art Rooney?!” https://t.co/B5d3hkb6iw
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 9, 2019
Clearly, Khan nor Hunt are at Tomlin’s level and all is fair when it comes to love, war, and football. But it’s something to at least consider.
Whenever Colbert’s time in Pittsburgh is done, it’s also possible they go outside the organization. Though a native Pittsburgher, Colbert was an outside hire when the team hired him to replace Tom Donahoe in 2000. He came over after spending a decade with the Detroit Lions.