For the first time since 2000, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a new general manager. To put that in perspective, a longer span since they last needed a quarterback. Art Rooney II confirmed yesterday Kevin Colbert will step down as GM following the 2022 NFL Draft and the team is immediately searching for his replacement, though they won’t make an official hire until after the draft.
So who could the heir be? We know two candidates already, Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt, both of whom Rooney said have already interviewed with the team. I’ll outline background on both those guys below and throw out a couple names I think make sense for the team when they conduct external interviews.
Let me know who you’d add in the comments below.
Omar Khan – Vice President of Football & Business Administration
Better known as the “cap guy,” Khan has been with the Steelers since 2001 after spending several years with the New Orleans Saints, where he worked on the scouting and cap side of things.
A Tulane grad, Khan has had several interviews over the years for GM jobs. His two closest chances came in 2010 as a finalist for the Seattle Seahawks job, losing out to John Schneider. He also was reportedly close to becoming the Houston Texans’ GM last season before Jack Easterby went off the board to hire his buddy Nick Caserio from New England.
Despite not being named GM anywhere, he is reportedly well-respected around the league. There are even rumors that though Chicago did not hire him as their GM, they’re interested in having him become the team’s next President. Khan reportedly has close ties to several in the Bears’ organization. It feels like at some point, Khan will leave the Steelers if he’s not named GM, especially knowing the team would’ve picked someone else if they go in a different direction. Probably wouldn’t set too terribly well with him.
He lacks the football/scouting background Kevin Colbert does, something that would mesh well with the football-lifer Mike Tomlin. But he’s a valuable part of the organization for his knowledge, ability to work the cap, key for any organization trying to sustain itself, and the relationships he’s built up over the years around the league. Does anyone know agents better than this guy?
Brandon Hunt – Pro Scouting Coordinator
To me, the slight favorite to become the Steelers’ GM over Khan. Much like Kevin Colbert, Hunt has climbed the football ladder, first serving as a Steelers’ intern in 2005 and 2006 before taking a job with Houston as one of their pro scouts. He returned to the Steelers in 2010 to replace Doug Whaley as the team’s Pro Scouting Coordinator, a position he’s held ever since.
That description has him focus on NFL players already in the league, helping to identify players such as NT Montravius Adams, a solid mid-season signing. But he’s also hit the scouting trail and has a big hand in the draft process. Art Rooney II yesterday said the team has given him more responsibilities over time, likely involving the NFL Draft process.
Though born in the state California, he grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Pine-Richland High School. From there, he played football up the road at IUP before getting into the front office side of things. Hunt isn’t a name we hear from often but he’s clearly done his job well and in the occasional interview, has come off as smart and a good fit to be the Steelers’ next GM.
He and Colbert have taken similar paths. Colbert grew up in Pittsburgh, played and coached locally (Colbert at Robert Morris, Hunt at IUP), and Colbert broke into the league as a BLESTO and college scout. He became the Lions’ Pro Scouting Director before the Steelers hired him in 2000. Hunt has an awfully similar resume and should be considered the favorite to replace Colbert.
So those are the two internal names. But they won’t be the only names in the mix. Pittsburgh will interview outside candidates, too. Art Rooney II has said as much. We don’t know who they will be but let me throw out two of them.
POSSIBLE EXTERNAL CANDIDATES
Louis Riddick – ESPN Analyst
Sticking with Pittsburgh roots but Riddick is qualified to be a NFL GM regardless of geography. He’s considered one of the smartest people on the TV side of things but he has an accomplished in-league background too. Breaking into the league as a scout in 2004, he worked his way up to becoming the Eagles’ Director of Player Personnel from 2010 to 2013.
After that, he’s served as a TV analyst and currently appears on ESPN, appearing on shows and as a color commentator for Monday Night Football. That’s given him the chance to talk to players and coaches around the league in pre-production meetings, picking their brains and gathering insight few would be able to do. He’s garnered NFL interest on a near annual basis, interviewing for the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, among other teams.
Riddick grew up near Philadelphia but played his college ball at Pitt. His cousin, Tim Lewis, was the Steelers’ DB coach and eventual defensive coordinator in the late 90s-early 2000s. With their history and stability, the Steelers would surely be an attractive job Riddick would consider. It’s been awhile since he’s been in the league but his ESPN job has kept him right on the doorstep. It would be surprising if he didn’t at least get an interview. And I bet he crushes it, which would give the Steelers pause about promoting from within.
Mike Mayock – Former Raiders’ GM
Here’s one yinz are going to get mad at me about. And I get it. His time with the Raiders wasn’t great. But don’t forget, they did get turned around into a playoff team, improving them ever year. Inherited a 4-12 team and took them to 7-9, 8-8, and finally in 2021, a 10-7 Wild Card squad.
Mayock is best known for his time on NFL Network as their top draft analyst, keeping him as close to the game as anyone not actually holding a NFL job. He’s always spoken highly of the Rooney’s and the Steelers and if they came calling, you’d think he’d have to listen, even knowing he could return to TV in a heartbeat.
While his time with the Raiders didn’t end great, those who covered the team spoke how hard he worked, saying that no one worked harder than Mayock did. Las Vegas’ draft classes were…different, to say the least, but it’s hard to tell who had control over which picks. When he was the head coach, Jon Gruden held court in the room with his $100 million contract. There’s been some rumors and reports Gruden had a heavier hand in the draft process than Mayock, especially with early picks. To their credit, they found mid and late-round gems like DE Maxx Crosby (4th round), TE Foster Moreau (4th round), WR Hunter Renfrow (5th round), and CB Nate Hobbs (5th round).
Hiring Mayock would be choosing a smart person who now has NFL experience and a passion for the game. He’s an old-school football guy just like Tomlin and I think it’d be a good working relationship. Mayock was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the early 80s (as was his dad in the 50s, by the way) so bringing him back would be coming full circle.
I know most people will loathe this one. But I don’t think it’d be nearly as bad of a hire, or at least an interview, as some think it is.
Other Names I’d Consider: Jimmy Raye III (former Lions’ exec), Chris Shea (Chiefs), Rick Spielman (former Vikings’ GM).
Raye was a hot name for a bit but cooled off in recent years but shares the team’s long-standing build through the draft approach. Shea has an interesting scouting/salary cap combination background. If the team wants a veteran GM to replace their veteran GM, Spielman is on the market after getting fired by the Vikings. He worked under Colbert as a pro scout in Detroit back in the 90s while Spielman’s brother Chris was a player for the Lions. Tomlin worked with Rick in 2006, his lone year with Minnesota.
One Other Thing To Consider…
Could the Steelers find a way to promote Hunt and Khan? When legendary Packers’ GM Ted Thompson stepped down as GM after the 2017 season, the team promoted their “football guy” Brian Gutekunst to GM but also promoted their “cap guy” Russ Ball to Executive Vice President & Director Of Football Operations after previously carrying the title of Vice President Of Football Administration.
I think that is a possibility in Pittsburgh, assuming Khan nor Hunt leave for other jobs.