PITTSBURGH — In the 11 months since he was named Kevin Colbert’s successor, Omar Khan navigated a series of shrewd moves in his first season as an NFL general manager.

He secured an extra second-round pick for wide receiver Chase Claypool at the trade deadline, signed a free agency class that included veteran corner Patrick Peterson, guard Isaac Seumalo and inside linebacker Cole Holcomb, and he executed a surprise low-risk trade for wide receiver Allen Robinson.

But the Steelers’ 2023 draft class is the magnum opus of Khan’s rookie season. Not only did Khan add a heralded offensive tackle in Broderick Jones, he also methodically checked off every one of the Steelers’ major needs with value picks and timely trades. Though the final results of the draft will play out over the next several seasons, NFL draft analysts gave the Steelers nearly unanimous high marks — including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who assigned the organization a B-plus. And if not for a “light” Day 3 with just three picks, Kiper wrote, the Steelers would have earned an A.

“What did they call him, the Khan artist?” Tomlin said Saturday when asked if he still thought Khan was aggressive. “I saw that. That’s pretty good.”

After executing a rare first-round trade up — only the fourth in the organization’s history — to snag Jones, Khan and Tomlin walked into the Steelers’ offensive line meeting-room-turned-draft-news-conference-headquarters wearing navy suits and weary smiles.

“It was exciting, let me put it that way,” Khan said, describing his first first round as general manager. “I think everyone that was watching the draft would probably say there were several moves that were probably unexpected and surprises, and we see these moves pretty much at the same time everybody else does. It was an interesting time. We are just really excited we were able to move up and make that trade.”

Moving up three spots in exchange for their first- and fourth-round picks was a good move, Khan said, because “the value was right for us for the trade.”



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It was a smart move, but it was also an example of Khan’s aggressive mindset, even as he deflected the description Thursday night.

“I don’t know if I’d call myself aggressive,” Khan said with a sheepish grin. “I’m just trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

As Khan finished his answer, Tomlin jumped in with his own answer to the question.

“He’s aggressive,” the coach said firmly with a knowing nod.

But Khan wasn’t just aggressive for the sake of making moves. He was thoughtful in his approach.

After fielding trade offers for the No. 32 overall pick, Khan stood pat and drafted cornerback Joey Porter Jr. with the first pick of the second round. Later in the day he added two more players at key positions in DT Keeanu Benton and jumbo Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, who slipped in the draft amid rumors of medical concerns.

“We thought very highly of him,” Khan said of Washington. “Honestly, did not expect him to be sitting there. Just our gain.”

And it wasn’t just that Khan landed Washington, it’s how he did it. He traded out of the Steelers’ original No. 80 slot, giving it to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for Nos. 93 and 132 — effectively getting back the fourth-round pick he gave up to get Jones in the first round.

“When the call came about trading back, we just evaluated it, and we had a good feel for how many players were left that we’d be interested in, and got the top guy actually on that list,” Khan said. “And [there was] the opportunity to pick up a fourth, which we had lost. [It] was going to be a long wait from today if we didn’t have an extra pick. Fortunately, we got it because we think we got a really good football player in [fourth-round Wisconsin linebacker] Nick Herbig.”

Even with the reacquired fourth-round pick, the Steelers still had a long break between Day 3 picks, a layoff of more than 4.5 hours and 100 picks. When nothing panned out for a trade up into the fifth or sixth rounds, Khan used the break as a chance to catch his breath after two and a half whirlwind days.

“[I was] on the phone, had some Chick-Fil-A downstairs,” Khan said. “We just talked amongst ourselves, continued to strategize — that was a good opportunity for us to discuss the process after the draft with signing some of the free agents. We went back and met and just evaluated our roster as to where we were. Next thing you know, we were back in the room and kind of seeing where things were shaking out.”

He wrapped up the draft early Saturday evening with two final selections: CB Cory Trice and OL Spencer Anderson.



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With that, Khan’s first draft class was complete.

“It was awesome,” Khan said, describing the experience. “I think the journey of getting here has been great since I got the job to now. It’s been pretty special. I have a great group of people that I did this with, and they worked really hard for this organization. We have a really strong group of people. It’s just exciting. I don’t know if it’s hit me completely yet.”

Though Khan, who spent more than two decades with the organization before his promotion to general manager, was willing to reflect on the process, there was no basking in the immediate afterglow of assembling a solid class. Neither Tomlin nor Khan are particularly sentimental in that way, but even without a spoken acknowledgement, completing the 2023 NFL draft was another milestone reached in Khan’s tenure, another test seemingly passed with flying colors — even though the final grade won’t come until much later.

“We’ve just got work to do,” Tomlin said. “It’s normal for us. We’ve worked together for a long time. I don’t know that we hide behind roles and titles. People have opinions. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got information to gain. The process was very similar to how it’s been in the past.

“I don’t know that I’ve looked at him in a different light because of the position. I don’t know that he looks at himself in a different light. I just think sometimes titles and things of that nature are overblown. We’ve worked together for a long time, and we had some fun this weekend.”

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Steelers’ draft class, new general manager Omar Khan get high grades