The Pittsburgh Steelers naming Omar Khan their next general manager is just the latest example of integral to their operations is scouting and stability. First hired by the team in 2001, he served two decades under Kevin Colbert before finally being named the man to take his place.
But I said scouting and stability. They did not name him just because he’s been around long enough to know how they like things done. He’s been around so long because he’s been good at what he does so long. In other words, they were right about him more than two decades ago, and they believe they’ll be right about him once again.
Khan has been around long enough to have had a several-year working relationship with head coach Mike Tomlin’s predecessor, Bill Cowher, who retired after the 2006 season. They worked together for five years, and Cowher recently spoke to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about one of the most integral presences in the Steelers’ front office over the past two decades.
“With the Steelers, it always comes down to collaborating. There’s going to be a new structure and new faces, but it’s going to be a collaborative effort”, he said. “Mike Tomlin will be a big part of everything they do. That’s why it’s going to be a seamless transition from Kevin to Omar. He’s worked with Mike for the last 15 years. It’s a great move”.
Tomlin has, of course, always been a big part of everything they do. The tireless breadth of his ambitions is one of the things that the Steelers were first attracted to when they made him a surprise hire in 2007—passing over internal candidates, Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, to succeed Cowher.
It’s worth noting that Cowher also refuted the notion that Khan was strictly on the business side of football, saying that he “got involved in the draft and free agent acquisitions and how the cap affected that”, which was early on in his time with the Steelers. Surely his role expanded even further in the 16 years since Cowher retired. “When you manage the cap, you have to understand everything about the team. Omar understood that from the very beginning”.
But he still won’t be tasked with going it alone. The Steelers officially hired an assistant general manager, a first for the organization, naming a former intern under Cowher to that role in Pittsburgh native Andy Weidl. Weidl and Khan even worked together for a brief time in New Orleans before the latter was hired by the Steelers.
Some have questioned whether a ‘seamless’ transition is really what the Steelers needed, but outside of the two internal candidates, the reality is that Weidl was the outsider finalist who attracted the most attention. So perhaps they are getting the best of both worlds, after all.