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Pat McAfee Sees ‘New Era’ In Pittsburgh Under Khan And Tomlin, Credits Rooneys For Backing It

Is this “not your grandfather’s Pittsburgh Steelers”? That seems to be the prevailing characterization of the first full year under the new front office led by Omar Khan as general manager and Andy Weidl as his assistant. For decades prior, it was Kevin Colbert in the lead seat, having stepped down after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Though Khan spent all of that time under Colbert and learned quite a bit from him, many have been painting this past year as a departure in the organization, reading into every move something new and different, something Colbert wouldn’t have done. That’s the impression of Pat McAfee, who said as much on a recent episode of his eponymous podcast.

“This is a different Pittsburgh Steelers than it’s ever been. Aggressive, making moves”, he said in his post-draft analysis. “It’s almost like the new era, too. Colbert, older generation. Kind of conservative, we’re not trading anybody, we’re not paying anybody early, we’re drafting right where we’re drafting, we’re doing this. Khan and Tomlin seem to be a tag team kind of taking on a new initiative. Good for the Rooney family saying ‘Yeah, we’re about it’”.

The Steelers largely did not rock the boat under Colbert, that much is true, though they were not by any means opposed to the occasional bold gesture. They moved up 10 spots in the first round in 2019, very notable even though the actual selection didn’t pan out. They dealt their first-round pick later that same year for Minkah Fitzpatrick. It was the first time since the late ‘60s that they traded out of the first round.

Colbert may not have traded a high-profile player in-season like Khan did with Chase Claypool in 2022 (frankly, I can’t remember them trading any players in-season off the top of my head). But he was willing to ship Martavis Bryant off several years ago on a draft-day trade. And in 2010 the Steelers re-acquired Bryant McFadden via a draft-day trade that including them swapping late-round picks, their return selection turning into…Antonio Brown.

The April trade for wide receiver Allen Robinson II was notable, though I don’t find it to be something the Colbert-era Steelers wouldn’t have considered. While he preferred to do most of his trade acquisitions in July and August, he made March moves in the past, like in bringing in Chris Wormley, even trading in-division to do so.

One wonders if Colbert’s front office would have kept cornerback Cameron Sutton this offseason, the Steelers allowing him to leave on a three-year, $33 million deal with Detroit. They turned around and signed Patrick Peterson on a two-year, $14 million deal.

But Peterson himself, I believe, said he was talking to the Steelers in free agency a year ago. And they were also talking to Tyrann Mathieu a year ago, from Mathieu’s own mouth, though they didn’t end up with either one of them. It was also his front office that signed James Daniels and others in free agency last year and who drafted Kenny Pickett.

Personally, I think we’re making too much of, and in the process overanalyzing, the perceived differences over the past year. I believe we’re looking more at the new boss being largely the same as the old boss—and that’s a good thing. Minor variations on a winning formula. Which is what we had every reason to expect when the Khan Artist was named general manager.

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