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Steelers Commentary

Saunders: Shout It from the Rooftops, These Aren’t Your Father’s Steelers



Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan Steelers Draft
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex -- ED THOMPSON

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan is a quiet speaker. When he talks publicly, he doesn’t speak loudly or passionately, and he says almost nothing of substance.

But his actions are shouting a message loud and clear, from the top of Mt. Washington, for all of Pittsburgh to hear:

“These aren’t your father’s Steelers.”

Khan completed one of the most improbable sequences of acquisitions in Steelers history on Saturday, trading for Chicago Bears starting quarterback Justin Fields.

Khan sent just a conditional sixth-round 2025 draft pick, which can at most become a fourth-rounder, for Fields. He did so just a day after trading away incumbent Pittsburgh starter Kenny Pickett and a fourth for a third-round draft pick and two seventh-rounders.

Fields was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has an incredible athletic profile, and is one of the most electric athletes at quarterback in the NFL. He’s never put it all together as a passer, but has an 82.3 career passer rating and posted a career-best 86.3 mark in 2023.

Pickett was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and is nowhere near the athlete that Fields is. He has a career 78.8 passer rating and an 81.4 mark in 2023.

The Steelers got a better passer, and a better athlete at the quarterback position, and somehow ended up with a net positive in terms of draft-pick compensation in the two trades.

Oh, and that comes after the team signed nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson to a veteran minimum contract.

Of the four top quarterbacks available on the open market this offseason, the Steelers landed two of them for a grand total of basically nothing.


The Steelers had every intention of Kenny Pickett being a part of the team’s quarterback room this season. They wanted to bring in competition for Pickett. When they were able to get Russell Wilson, for basically nothing, they did that, making one of the best possible upgrades to the quarterback room that they could.

When the dominoes from that move led to Pickett requesting a trade from the Steelers, Khan shipped him to the Philadelphia Eagles for the equivalent of a fourth-round pick, sending out a fourth and getting a third and two sevenths.

The Eagles had wanted to trade for Fields, but the price from the Bears was too high, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported.

The Eagles settled for Pickett, and then with no other bidders left, Khan turned around and got Fields for less. He just fleeced Howie Roseman, who is one of the best general mangers in the NFL. 

The Steelers are an all-time great franchise. They are tied for the most Super Bowls in NFL history. But this is not how they have done business.

The Steelers are a franchise that has built its teams through the draft, patiently and carefully. When the Super Bowl teams of the 1970s started to age, it took the Steelers decades to work through finding replacements for the stars that hit the Hall of Fame.

Not this time around. Ben Roethlisberger retired two years ago. The Steelers used a first-round pick on Kenny Pickett. Two years later, he’s gone and there’s a new plan in place. Part of that was Pickett’s own desire to leave, but there has been a massive shift in the way this organization is willing to do business.

It’s modern, it’s urgent, and most importantly, it’s beating some of the best in the NFL at their own game. These are not your father’s Steelers, and while they’re not yet a finished product, it’s going to be nothing short of fascinating to watch them grow.