In Omar Khan’s first offseason as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Steelers have been un-Steeler like. In the first week of free agency they have signed and re-signed six players. These moves, have not only shaken up the team completely in some positions (looking at you, inside linebacker room) but also now allow Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin a lot more flexibility in the NFL Draft.
Entering the offseason the Steelers had a ton of needs. Cameron Heyward needed another consistently capable defensive lineman to pair with him, the secondary needed to sign or re-sign a cornerback, the offensive line needed depth, and something needed to be done about the inside linebacker room.
Khan addressed all of this, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi to pair with Heyward, signing Patrick Peterson to play outside cornerback, signing guard Nate Herbig to compete for a starting spot with Kevin Dotson, and also signing linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts while cutting Myles Jack. Oh yeah, and Khan re-signed Damontae Kazee, making sure the Steelers have a starting safety locked down for next season.
These moves, while are not going to knock your socks off, allow the team ability to take best player available at a position of need come the NFL Draft. The Steelers still need a cornerback for the future, and coverage linebacker, and some more help on the offensive line. But with three picks in the top 50 the Steelers have a chance to let the board speak to them instead of speaking the board.
Back in 2016, after William Jackson III was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals the Steelers panicked and picked Artie Burns because they needed a cornerback badly. It did not work out.
This year in a deep cornerback class with plenty of needs, if Pittsburgh needs a cornerback but one of the top three of Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, or Joey Porter Jr. are not available at 17, Pittsburgh doesn’t have to panic and draft one then instead can address another need and pick a cornerback at 32 or 49 because they now have a Peterson who they know can hold his own in the NFL as a starter.
If Khan can’t come to an agreement with Cameron Sutton and doesn’t strike a deal with Peterson the team would almost have to trade up in the draft to make sure they get one of the best corners in the draft class because the room is so weak.
Not only did Khan address needs, but also he added talent to them. In the inside linebacker room, Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane weren’t getting it done. What does Khan do? He gets rid of all of them and brings in new guys. While it may not work out, it shows him being proactive and allows on draft day to wait for a linebacker who fits the need of being strong in coverage to fall to them at either 17, 32, or 49.
None of Khan’s signings were very flashy, it’s not the Steeler Way. But he did enough to fill needs early on in free agency so the team won’t panic come the NFL Draft. The best way to build a winner is to build through the draft, but being in panic situations isn’t going to result in a good draft, again look at the Steelers 2016 class, only Javon Hargrave was a consistent starter for the team.
While you can argue Ogunjobi got paid a bit too much and the team should have kept Sutton over signing Peterson, overall Khan did a good job in free agency, and there is no guarantee he’s done yet.