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Omar Khan Plans to Uphold Steelers’ Continuity in ‘Smooth Transition’



Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan (left) and owner/president Art Rooney II (right) shake hands during Khan's introductory press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Friday, May 27, 2022.

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have been an organization that believes in continuity, and show that in their decisions on and off the field. But with change of the times, and the people, like new general manager Omar Khan, there’s always questions as to how those philosophies might change.

If you were wondering about those philosophies changing with Khan, his opening press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Friday provided the glimpse of insight. Both team owner Art Rooney II and Khan addressed Pittsburgh media for the first time since the team announced Khan as the new GM Wednesday.

To put it simply, expect the Steelers’ ship to keep sailing in the same direction.

“There’s not going to be a lot of change here,” Khan said. “I obviously have some ideas here that I want to implement and put in place. But I don’t see a lot of change.”

Mr. Rooney even opened the press conference with a reference to how well the Steelers know Khan. He worked under his predecessor, Kevin Colbert, for 21 of Colbert’s 22 years since being hired in 2000.

“Obviously, we picked the guy we know very well,” Rooney said. “We’re excited. We know Omar, Omar knows us. I think it will be a smooth transition.”

The Steelers’ GM needed to be 1 of the 15 candidates who understood the values, traditions and philosophies that were at the center of Colbert’s success. Two Super Bowls, three AFC Championships, 10 division titles and 14 playoff appearances are all testimony to that.

“From the first day I started here in Pittsburgh, it’s been all about football and building a championship roster,” Khan said. “I learned that from day one, and that’s not going to change.”

Khan was there for all of it. He worked is way from football administration coordinator to director of football administration to vice president of football and business administration to now, general manager. That didn’t come with not understanding the purpose of the practices that built the organization, and the people who were involved.

“There’s so many people,” Khan said of who he’s learned from. “Bill Cowher and I, to this day, have a strong relationship. We communicate periodically. When I’ve been going through these processes, he’s not only been a great advisor, but a great friend.”

Khan would go on to name and thank others like Bill Nunn, Joe Green and Ron Hughes. It’s clear he has a long list of important contributors, coaches and people of influence in the Steelers organization. It wasn’t clear how, but Khan did indicate that the Steelers were working to find him a role with the team.

“I find it hard to believe there are two people in this business that have worked as well together as Kevin and I have for so long,” Khan said. “It’s been an honor, and I’m excited that he’s always going to be just a phone call away for me.”

One specific aspect of the Steelers’ operations that won’t change in the slightest is how they negotiate contracts. When asked if certain policies–like not negotiating with players during the season–would remain in place, Khan was clear those tenets would remain.

“Those discussions will always be Steelers decisions,” Khan said when asked if the Steelers will change how they negotiate contracts with players. “Those discussions are always going to be in a room when we decide the best time for that. Those principles will stay in place.”

Khan was known to the public as an expert in the salary cap whose strengths were more towards roster management and numbers rather than scouting. But he wanted to make clear in his appearance that his skills wouldn’t be limited to one area.

“I’m confident I’ve touched every aspect of the football operations,” Khan said. “Obviously, some more than others. But every good leader understands his strengths and his weaknesses; neither of which I’m going to discuss here publicly. Every good leader surrounds himself with smart people who are going to help him succeed. That’s my plan.”

“Being in this role, the responsibilities shift a little bit,” Khan continued. “I’ll have my hands on a lot of things I’ve done before while also having my hands in other things. It will be a smooth transition. … It’s always good to get new ideas. But we have a lot of great people here who have great ideas also. This is a fluid process. I’m going to continue to meet with those guys.”

Chief among those people Khan knows the Steelers already have is Mike Tomlin.

“To step into this job and know that you will be working hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with Mike Tomlin, that’s a dream come true” Khan said. “I’ve never met anybody that has a greater passion for the game of football than Mike Tomlin at all levels. I’m not just talking pro football. His passion is amazing, and it resonates with all of us in this building, myself included. I’m excited, let’s get it coach.”

“I think it’s going to be an easy transition,” Khan continued about Tomlin. “Coach T and I have had a great relationship over the past 16 years. We’ve confided in each other a lot of things and spent a lot of time together. It’s going to be a smooth transition.”

Khan takes over at a time when not only is he the new GM, but as the team transitions past the Ben Roethlisberger era along with a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin. But he seems more thrilled about that change than worried.

“It’s exciting, really,” Khan said of being in a point of transition with the Steelers. “We have great people coach Tomlin has on his staff. I’m excited about the people we have here and some of the people we have here and some of the people I’m bringing in, the future is bright.”

Khan wouldn’t confirm if the Steelers would keep Brandon Hunt, the team’s Pro Scouting Coordinator since 2010 who was also a candidate for the GM position. Khan indicated that because of the thorough interview and transition process he’s undertaken that he doesn’t have clarity yet on all of the front office positions. But he did confirm that he had hired Andy Weidl and Sheldon White, while also acknowledging the team promoted college scout Dan Colbert to a “senior level position.”

“I’ve known Andy for a long time,” Khan said of Weidl. “When we had meetings to discuss how I wanted to structure this I felt like Andy would be a valuable piece to me. We’re very fortunate we were able to work things out and get him over here.”

Weidl may bring some new ideas. But if the tone of Friday’s press conference is to be believed, those ideas will have to fit under the hierarchy of football practices and philosophies that have been at the core of the Steelers’ identity for decades.

That’s where the continuity of the Steelers will look to continue. Khan was selected to maintain the practices that have paved the room for success on the field, while being the new captain to the Steelers’ ship that guides them into the future.

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