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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers GM Omar Khan Again Scouting HBCU Combine



Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan HBCU Legacy Bowl Salary Cap
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan before a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 8, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

For the second consecutive season, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan is attending the HBCU Combine in New Orleans, Louisiana, according to NFL Network.

Khan, who was the only GM at the event in 2023, is joined in New Orleans by Saints general manager Mickey Loomis this year. The HBCU Combine and the HBCU Legacy Bowl are a week-long scouting event that combines elements of the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, but are held exclusively for players that attended historically black colleges or universities.

While HBCUs have been on the rise in terms of profile thanks to the success of Deion Sanders as the head coach at Jackson State and some other high-profile former NFL players taking on head coaching jobs, the transfer portal has significantly reduced the number of small-school players headed to the NFL ranks in general.

Only 15 players from the FCS or lower levels were invited to the NFL Combine this year, which highlights the importance of the HBCU Combine as exposure for these players.

The Steelers were one of the first teams to scout HBCUs in the 1970, with Bill Nunn getting his start in that area as a journalist before the Steelers hired him as a scout. Mel Blount (Southern), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State) are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after starting their careers at an HBCU and continuing them with the Pittsburgh Steelers. L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Frank Lewis (Grambling) and Ernie Holmes (Texas Southern) were also part of the Steelers’ 1970s Super Bowl dynasty.

Their interest in scouting HBCUs has never waned, though. As the rest of the NFL picked up on the Steelers’ success, they have not dominated the area as they once did, but the Steelers have had several more recent successful players from HBCUs, including Greg Lloyd (Fort Valley State), Earl Holmes (Florida A&M) and Javon Hargarve (South Carolina State).

Last season, Khan scouted an undersized running back from Morgan State named Alfonzo Graham at the HBCU Combine and Legacy Bowl. The Steelers gave him a rookie camp tryout and Graham earned a contract. He had been turning heads in training camp before suffering a season-ending injury. Graham is on track to return in 2024.