Labriola On

Continuity, with some change

There is going to be continuity, but there also is going to be change.

Omar Khan was introduced as the Steelers' new general manager at a Friday morning news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and if the general mood contained some comfort in the job going to someone who has spent a couple of decades in the franchise's football operations department and therefore has been a part of all of the success enjoyed during that span, there also was an excitement about the Steelers' next chapter.

"Obviously we picked a guy we know very well," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "Excited that we know Omar, Omar knows us, and so I think it'll be a very smooth transition."

The transition to which Rooney referred is ongoing and does not stop at the simple one-for-one ascension of Khan into the job held previously by Kevin Colbert since 2000. During his remarks to the media, Khan confirmed two other additions to the football operations department – Andy Weidl, most recently the vice president of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Sheldon White, who comes from the Washington Commanders where he was a college scout and previously was the Detroit Lions vice president of player personnel.

Titles and specific responsibilities for Weidl and White are still to be determined, as is the makeup of the rest of the player personnel department under Khan, who added that Dan Colbert had been promoted "to a senior level position."

"I've known Andy for a long time, and we had meetings and discussed how I wanted to structure this, and I just felt like Andy was a valuable piece, would be a valuable piece to me," said Khan when asked specifically about Weidl. "I'm very fortunate we were able to work things out and get him over here. He's a strong evaluator."

When asked about White, Khan said, "Lots of experience, very loyal person. He's going to be an asset. Again, he's a Steelers type of person. I'm not going to get into specifics, into roles and titles right now, but he's going to be a great addition here."

Khan has developed a reputation around the NFL for being a skilled contract negotiator and a deft manipulator of the salary cap, but that doesn't necessarily mean the Steelers football operations department is going to be divided into two sections – business and personnel.

"I'm confident in saying I've touched every aspect of football operations, obviously some more than others," said Khan. "But I think every good leader understands his strengths and his weaknesses, neither of which I'm going to discuss here publicly, but I think every good leader surrounds himself with smart people who are going to help him succeed, and that's my plan."

And Khan took time to recognize some who helped get him to a place where he was a viable candidate to be the Steelers general manager.

"The Rooney family, especially Art and Mr. (Dan) Rooney, they've taught me so much, not only about the game of football and the business of the NFL, but about life and being a person," said Khan. "I am who I am – the person you see here today is who he is for having known the Rooney family, especially 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's been an honor, and I'm excited that he's always going to be just a phone call away for me.

"To step into this job and know that you're going to 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 I've never met anybody who has a greater passion for the game of football than Mike Tomlin, at all levels, and I'm not just talking pro football. His passion is amazing. That resonates on all of us in this building, me included."

Khan said the Steelers' business model of using the draft as the primary method of roster building is not going to change, and he also hinted at a continuation of the franchise's collaborative approach when he referred to decisions about contracts and extensions being "Steelers decisions." He also said definitively that the long-standing principles of not negotiating contracts during the season and waiting until the final year of a player's existing contract before working on an extension "will stay in place."

But that shouldn't be taken to mean nothing will change, including the people with whom he'll be working.

"It's always good to get new ideas, but we have a lot of great people here who have great ideas, also," said Khan. "Like I mentioned, this is a fluid process. I'm going to continue to meet with those guys and put things in place. I've literally been on the job for a couple of days, so still a lot of moving parts.

"Anything that can help us improve or win football games, we're going to look into and utilize. I have some cool ideas I think I'm going to implement. I'm probably not going to share those publicly. I don't want anybody else knowing those, but we're going to use every tool or every opportunity we have to get better."

But the goals, the expectations will not change simply because there is a different person occupying the general manager's office.

"I can tell you from the first day I started here in Pittsburgh, it's always been all about football and building a championship roster here," said Khan. "I learned that from Day 1, and that's not going to change.

"Obviously being in this role, the responsibilities shift a little bit, but I'll have my hands on a lot of things that I have done before and obviously have my hands in other things. It'll be a smooth transition."

Which apparently was the idea all along.

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