Ike Taylor Says Omar Khan ‘Controlled The Room” In First Draft As GM: ‘He Was Locked In’

We don’t often get a look at the inner-workings of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ war room during the draft. There are no behind-the-scenes looks like the Dallas Cowboys provide, watching them debate over their first-round pick, or a near play-by-play from the Las Vegas Raiders’ draft with Peter King allowed to report from it.

But Ike Taylor, in a new assistant scouting role for the team, got a firsthand view of what it was like. And he praised Omar Khan’s first draft as the team’s general manager. Not only for the outcomes, seven quality draft picks, but the presence Khan had inside those walls. In the latest episode of The Bleav In Steelers podcast, Taylor described the weekend watching him.

“Omar Khan aka Omar The Khan artist, from everyday work to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, turned into a totally different person,” Taylor relayed to co-host Mark Bergin. “Mark, I’m talking about, he was lasered in, he was locked in, he was focused. And in the back of my head I was like, ‘He was waiting on this moment his whole life.’ He was waiting on this moment his whole life.”

Khan was named the team’s GM last May after Kevin Colbert stepped down following the 2022 NFL Draft. Though it was a new role for Khan, he was far from new to the team. Hired on Valentine’s Day of 2001, he had primarily served as the team’s “cap guy” handling the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations before being promoted to the head role last summer. There were times in which it seemed like Khan would be hired away, nearly becoming the Houston Texans’ GM in 2021 until a last-second intervention by Houston VP Jack Easterby pivoted the team in a different direction.

Though Khan doesn’t have the football experience of Mike Tomlin or even Assistant GM Andy Weidl, Taylor said it was Khan who commanded the draft room over the weekend.

“O controlled the room,” Taylor said, affectionally calling Omar “O.” “And to sit there with Head Coach Mike T, because Mike T has a strong personality himself. Strong personality. To sit there and watch how O worked the room and worked the draft, I told O after the draft, ‘I don’t even know you, bro. I don’t even know you. You turned into someone totally different.’ In a good way.”

Wheeling and dealing is in Khan’s nature. That’s the art of a negotiation, something he did for more than 20 years. And salary caps are partially about projections. Where the cap is headed, what future contracts look like, what money be allocated to certain positions. All of that helps when it comes to making deals of which Khan made two. He moved up from #17 to #14 to get OT Broderick Jones and then back from #80 to #93 – the Steelers’ first trade down in 13 years – to recoup the fourth-round pick given up for Jones. A chess-not-checkers type of move that helped the team assemble a great draft haul universally praised by analysts.

“Very strategic. Knew what he wanted to do,” Taylor said. “Knew when he wanted to do it. ‘Ok, this didn’t work out, this is my backup plan…so let’s go this way, let’s move.'”

Though it’s just one draft class and none of these players have even hit the field yet, Khan’s tenure as GM is off to a good start. Still, in Pittsburgh, front offices are judged not by winning the draft but by winning in the fall and winter. The Steelers need to return to the playoffs after missing it in 2022. They’re in a hypercompetitive division and conference that house most of the league’s top quarterbacks. The path to competing won’t be easy. But it Khan sounds like he’s up to the challenge.

Check out the full podcast with Taylor below.


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