On the Jed Hughes Podcast, new Steelers general manager Omar Khan talked about the importance of players being well-compensated if they’re the right fit for the team.
Khan has talked a few times since being hired about the importance of building through the draft, and he expanded on that in his interview with Hughes.
“The way I look at it is this. If there’s a good player that deserves getting compensated, there’s ways to make sure you can do that. And I think it’s key to, if you think you have a good player, not to let him out of your building and if he feels good about being here and you feel good about having him, you gotta find a way to make it work. There’s always ways to make it work,” Khan said.
Pittsburgh has drafted and developed a whole lot of talent under the leadership of former GM Kevin Colbert and Khan, whose been in the Steelers’ front office since 2001. Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, Heath Miller, David DeCastro, T.J. Watt and Maurkice Pouncey are all first-round picks who the Steelers drafted, developed, and rewarded with new contracts, and that’s not even getting into the plethora of selections from other rounds who made a nice career in Pittsburgh. Khan was known as a cap guru in his time working under Colbert, so it’s not too surprising to hear him say that there will always be a way to make it work to keep players in town. Just last offseason, the Steelers utilized voidable years on a handful of deals in order to bring back Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster while still having cap space for outside free agents.
It’s good to hear that Khan values keeping talent in-house and won’t be afraid to pay players what he and the rest of the front office believe they are worth. Obviously, most teams would prefer to keep their premium talent with them, but I do think it’s interesting that Khan spoke to the point of the player feeling good in Pittsburgh and the team feeling good about him. If a player wants out, Pittsburgh isn’t going to try and make him stay, whereas if they have concerns about a player, whether on or off the field, they won’t go out of their way to make him an offer that would allow him to stay.
The Steelers have both WR Diontae Johnson and S Minkah Fitzpatrick due for extensions in the near-term, but Khan’s philosophy will be one to pay attention to down the line. Hopefully, Khan will still be the general manager when players like RB Najee Harris and QB Kenny Pickett become extension-eligible, and it’ll be interesting to see the sort of money they get and if they stay with the team.
For years, the narrative has been that the Steelers are perpetually dealing with cap space problems. However, they always seem to figure it out. Like Khan said, there will always be a way to make things work to keep the players you want in Pittsburgh while still aiding the roster with outside free agents.