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2024 NFL Draft

Omar Khan’s Thoughts from the NFL Combine Loom Large in Center Conversation

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking for a center in the 2024 NFL Draft, but Omar Khan may have already hinted at what they want.



Pittsburgh Steelers Graham Barton

The Pittsburgh Steelers know they need a center. Don’t believe me? Just ask Mike Tomlin, who quite literally said at the NFL owner’s meetings that something had to happen at the position.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve still got Herbig on our roster, but we’ve got some work to do there, whether it’s continued in free agency and/or the draft. We’ll get something done, obviously at that position, but you can say the same thing about some other obvious positions where we might be short on the depth chart from a number standpoint.”

On the topic of Herbig, the Steelers have shaded him into being a starter right now, according to their comments, but Herbig has just played 49 snaps at center in his entire NFL career. In addition, he lacks the special athleticism in space that Arthur Smith asks from his centers in a wide zone offense.

But Pittsburgh has others who could fill in as center-capable players. James Daniels, Isaac Seumalo, and Spencer Anderson all have experience there on top of the aforementioned Herbig. Maybe, center is where one of those guys ends up. But it sure did not sound like Daniels was going to move there from Omar Khan’s comments at the NFL Combine.

“It could, you know, he has position flexibility. But James really had a good season at guard and we were really encouraged by that. We feel like he got better every week,” Khan said.

Daniels has played center in the past, and done it well. Daniels split time between center and guard with the Chicago Bears in 2019. He started both his sophomore and junior year at Iowa at center, and that play is what got him drafted into the NFL. He played well there, but had his best NFL season in 2023 at right guard, meaning that moving him brings clear risk of opening up a hole. 

But Khan’s comments at the NFL Combine are noticeable if you look closely enough at what to look for, and more importantly, the emphasis on versatility is something that Khan has preached on the offensive line. And that quote from the NFL Combine might be the most important.

“Position flexibility has always been important to me,” Khan said. “We have guys who are center capable. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to look at free agency, the trade market and the draft process. There are good players in every one of those areas.”

A tell-all? It’s not that, but it’s a nugget to follow. Some teams like to lock guys into one spot, and that has its benefits, too. But the Steelers are a team that likes their offensive linemen to learn multiple spots, sometimes to their own detriment. But if you read those tea leaves, Khan is hinting that a center is probably coming through the NFL Draft, but it might be time to keep the ideas open a bit more. As such, you can bet they think of Graham Barton as a center, and he might be the top-ranked guy on their board. He could play all five spots.

Barton is an impressive player on film, and though many are projecting him to move positions because his lack of length leaves him in trouble on the outside at tackle, many believe he is a special talent who could play center. Former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who helps the Steelers out with some scouting services, weighed in on Barton.

“This is what I think about when I think about Graham Barton — you mix a grizzly bear, you put in a ballerina, and you put in a lion,” Taylor said on the Bleav in Steelers Podcast. “Those people don’t come around too often.”

It’s just another little nugget follow, but again, many of the signs point to the team absolutely loving Barton. His athletic profile is perfect for the Steeler’s scheme, and while he only has six games of collegiate experience at center, it sure seems like Pittsburgh would be the fit for him to maximize his gifts from an athletic standpoint. Add in the versatility he could bring and the Steelers will likely fall in love with him. He’s not guaranteed to be the pick, but many of the signs point in Barton’s direction.