There will be continuity, but also changes.
Omar Khan was unveiled as the Steelers’ new general manager at a press conference Friday morning at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and if the general mood at the job was any consolation, he went to someone who has spent a couple of decades in the franchise’s football business and was hence part of the overall success enjoyed in that span of time, there was also an excitement about the Steelers’ next chapter.
“Obviously we’ve gone with a guy that we know very well,” said Steelers president Art Rooney II. “Excited that we know Omar, Omar knows us and so I think it’s going to be a very smooth transition .”
The transition Rooney was referring to is underway and won’t end with Khan’s easy step-up to the job Kevin Colbert had held since 2000. During his statements to the media, Khan confirmed two other additions to the football business — Andy Weidl, most recently vice president of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Sheldon White, who joins from the Washington Commanders, where he was a college scout and previously vice president of player personnel for the Detroit Lions was.
Titles and specific responsibilities for Weidl and White are yet to be determined, as is the make-up of the rest of the player HR department under Khan, who added that Dan Colbert has been promoted “to a senior position”.
“I’ve known Andy for a long time, and we had meetings and discussed how I wanted to structure that, and I just felt like Andy was a valuable piece, was going to be a valuable piece for me,” Khan said when he specifically afterwards Weidl was asked. “I am very happy that we were able to work things out and bring him here. He is a strong appraiser.”
When asked about White, Khan said: “Lots of experience, very loyal person. He will be an asset. Again, he’s a Steelers type person. I will not go into details, roles and titles now. but he will be a great addition here.”
Khan has earned a reputation in the NFL as an experienced contract negotiator and adept salary cap manipulator, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Steelers’ football operations division will be split into two sections — business and human resources.
“I’m confident to say I’ve touched every aspect of the game of football, some more than others obviously,” said Khan. “But I think every good leader knows their strengths and weaknesses, which I won’t discuss publicly here, but I think every good leader surrounds themselves with smart people who help them succeed, and that’s my plan. “
And Khan took time to recognize a few who helped propel him to a place where he was a viable candidate for the Steelers general manager job.
“The Rooney family, especially Art and Mr. (Dan) Rooney, they’ve taught me so much, not just about the game of football and the business of the NFL, but about life and being a human being,” Khan said. “I am who I am – the person you see here today is the person he is because he has known the Rooney family, particularly Art and Mr. Rooney.
“To Kevin Colbert…Kevin and I have worked together for over 20 years and I find it hard to believe that there are two people in this business who have worked as well together as Kevin and I have for so long.” It was an honor and I’m happy that he will always be just a phone call away.
“To step into this job and know that you’ll be working hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with Mike Tomlin, I mean, that’s a dream come true. One thing I will say about Coach is that I’ve never met anyone who has a greater passion for the game of football than Mike Tomlin, at any level, and I’m not just talking about professional football. His passion is incredible. This is reflected in all of us in this building, myself included. “
Khan said the Steelers’ business model of using the draft as the primary method for rostering will not change, and he also hinted at a continuation of the franchise’s collaborative approach as he makes decisions about contracts and renewals as “Steelers- decisions”. He also said definitively that the longstanding policy of not negotiating in-season contracts and waiting until the final year of a player’s existing contract before working on an extension “will remain in place”.
But that shouldn’t mean nothing will change, including the people he’ll be working with.
“It’s always good to get new ideas, but we have a lot of great people here who also have great ideas,” Khan said. “As I mentioned earlier, this is an ongoing process. I will continue to meet with these guys and make things happen. I’ve literally been on the job for a few days so still lots of moving parts.
“Anything that can help us improve or win football games, we will examine and use. I have some cool ideas that I think I will implement. I probably won’t share these publicly. I don’t want anyone else to know these, but we will use every tool and every opportunity to improve.”
But the goals, the expectations, won’t change just because someone else fills the CEO’s office.
“I can tell you that since the first day I started here in Pittsburgh, it has always been about football and building a championship line-up,” said Khan. “I learned that from day one and that will not change.
“Obviously there’s a bit of a shift in responsibilities in this role, but I’ll have my hands on a lot of things that I’ve done before and obviously have my hands on other things. It will be a smooth transition.”
Which apparently was the idea all along.