There’s no rest for the weary. And Omar Khan certainly isn’t slowing down. If there was any chance during the fall you forgot there’s a new GM running the Pittsburgh Steelers, Khan has reminded you he isn’t Kevin Colbert. Not that Colbert was always hyper-conservative. He traded up in drafts for Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes, Devin Bush and sent a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick while being quite active in free agency last offseason.
But Khan? He’s been relentless. It shouldn’t come as a shock. A new GM builds the roster in his vision and it’s not as if the Steelers’ roster was pristine. It has a framework, a core, but was rough around the edges. So in HGTV style, Khan took out his sledgehammer not to tear down the entire house but take out a wall, remodel a bathroom, put a nice backsplash in the kitchen.
Patrick Peterson was the first addition, Cam Sutton’s short-term replacement. But he was hardly the last. Nate Herbig, Cole Holcomb, Isaac Seumalo, Elandon Roberts, Keanu Neal, Breiden Fehoko, Armon Watts and now a trade for Allen Robinson.
Of the 13 main position units on a football team, a whopping six of them have had outside movement since the start of the new league year: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Inside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, and Punter. And oh yeah, the draft isn’t even here yet and Pittsburgh holds three picks in the top 50, four in the top 80.
Khan and the Steelers have participated in every wave of free agency and utilized every avenue to acquire players. Signings, the majority, trades like acquiring Robinson, and waiver claims like the team submitted and won with punter Braden Mann, who will compete with Pressley Harvin III this summer.
Pittsburgh knew the lay of the land. This wasn’t a great receiver class. Free agency options were slim — it’s one reason why the Chicago Bears made an aggressive move for Chase Claypool last fall — and the draft class wasn’t overwhelmingly good. It had some options, some depth, and Pittsburgh appeared to explore those names. But with other needs and strong classes at positions like corner, the team made the move for Robinson. A veteran who will lead the Steelers’ room and should play a fair amount of snaps in the slot, the big slot option the team attempted with Claypool but one that was an awkward and unsuccessful fit.
This doesn’t mean all of Khan’s moves have been perfect. There’s issues and concerns we could write another article talking about. Robinson is no longer a star, he’s 29 and coming off foot surgery, and I’m a bit uncomfortable with the number of signings coming off IR in LB Cole Holcomb and now Robinson. But Khan sure can’t be accused of sitting on his hands. He’s been as active as any GM this offseason in building the roster in his image.
The key players are all the same. The franchise success still hinges on Kenny Pickett, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward. But more was needed. More depth, more competition, more playmaking from certain position groups, like o-line and inside linebacker. Some moves will work, some won’t. That’s how the league goes, no one bats 1.000. But Khan is making this his team, the way he wants the roster built, and his moves aren’t done yet.