Heitritter: Omar ‘The Khan Artist’ A Breath Of Fresh Air The Steelers Needed

Former Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was one of the most successful general managers in the NFL during his tenure with the team. He took over as the team’s Director of Football Operation in 2000 and was officially named the team’s general manager in 2010, helping construct Steelers teams that would go on to a multitude of playoff appearances, three Super Bowl berths, and two Lombardi Trophies. He drafted numerous first team All-Pros and future Hall of Famers including S Troy Polamalu, QB Ben Roethlisberger, OLB T.J. Watt, and WR Antonio Brown.

However, the last several years of Colbert’s tenure seemed to lack splash and flavor for a team committed to contending for titles every season. He never went “all in” per se, which can be seen as a positive in terms of selling your soul for one season like the Los Angeles Rams did (and now are paying for in a big way). However, his process came off as rather bland, rarely moving around in the draft, having a concrete contract structure in which he would negotiate with players right before the clock struck midnight in training camp, and often looked for bargain bin free agents to fill glaring team needs… only to cut bait with them after a season or two.

To Colbert’s credit, he did go out with a bang of sorts last offseason, signing C Mason Cole, G James Daniels, LB Myles Jack, and S Damontae Kazee while drafting Pittsburgh’s hopeful QB of the future in Kenny Pickett.

After the 2022 NFL Draft concluded, Colbert passed the baton to new GM Omar Khan… and “The Khan Artist” went to work.

While Khan recently said that he looked up to Colbert as his mentor and that the pre-draft process would be 85% the same as it was under his predecessor, we have seen him as well as assistant GM Andy Weidl make a notable impact on the team in just their first season running the show. Khan showed he was willing to get a deal done with S Minkah Fitzpatrick at the beginning of summer, locking him up well before training camp to prevent any sort of “hold in” for the All-Pro safety.

Khan pulled off a true con artist move at the trade deadline, sending WR Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for their second-round pick, a pick that would ultimately become the first pick on Day Two of the draft, which landed the Steelers CB Joey Porter Jr. Khan showed willingness to take more risks on players with injury flags, signing DL Larry Ogunjobi last summer as he was coming off a foot injury while also drafting TE Darnell Washington and CB Cory Trice Jr., who fell in the draft due to their own injury flags. Still, both players are currently healthy and presented incredible value relative to the spot Pittsburgh took them.

Khan moved up in the first round to secure the team’s future franchise LT in Georgia’s Broderick Jones while also trading down in the third round to recoup the fourth-round selection the Steelers lost in the Jones deal. Khan managed to nail value on nearly every selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, taking the best players on his board and receiving praise for doing so by the rest of the league.

Khan and the Steelers had the wildest offseason in recent memory prior to the draft, going on a signing frenzy to fill numerous holes on the roster with proven veterans who bring leadership and experience to the team. The team signed CB Patrick Peterson, S Keanu Neal, LBs Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, DL Armon Watts and Breiden Fehoko, and OL Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig. They brought back several of their own key free agents in Kazee and Ogunjobi and executed a trade with the Rams to acquire WR Allen Robinson II for a seventh-round pick swap while making Los Angeles eat a good portion of Robinson’s 2023 salary. The team also looks to recruit the XFL ranks and will reportedly bring in WR Hakeem Butler for rookie minicamp.

Simply put, Omar Khan has been a breath of fresh air for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This isn’t to say that Kevin Colbert was bad during the final years of his tenure as general manager, but rather his process came off rather conservative and uninspiring for a team with championship aspirations. Khan has brought that spark Steelers fans have been craving a long time this offseason, loading up this roster to turn some heads and make some noise in the AFC this season while not sacrificing this team’s future to go all in for one season. The results of all of these moves have yet to be realized, but I for one am encouraged by all of Khan’s moves this offseason, being aggressive yet calculated in attempt to get Pittsburgh back into title contention.

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