PHOENIX – Draft weekend can't get here soon enough for Steelers' first-year general manager Omar Khan.
Khan, elevated into his current position after former GM Kevin Colbert retired after last year's draft, can check off another first once that happens, as he completes his first year on the job.
"I'm super excited," Khan said Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting here in Phoenix. "You know, we had meetings in February, and we've been and we're going to go through the pro days, the last couple of weeks. We started with 30 visits last week. That's going to continue and then our meetings are coming up with the coaches in a couple of weeks and I'm fired up. I'm feeling really good about where we're at."
The Steelers have been active in free agency, signing offensive linemen Isaac Seumalu, Nate Herbig and Le'Raven Clark, linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts and cornerback Patrick Peterson as outside free agents in addition to keeping several of their own players.
Those moves have filled needs for the team and lessened the urgency for the Steelers to feel they have to zero in on anything in particular in the draft.
And they're not necessarily done adding in free agency according to Khan.
"We will keep evaluating what's out there," Khan said. "There's still a lot of good players out there. You know, and as much as we're interested in them, they've gotta be interested in us. So we're still going through that process. So that's not going to stop. We're still evaluating everything."
How that process worked this season changed a little, as well.
With the additions to their front office of people such as assistant general manager Andy Weidl, director of pro scouting Sheldon White and director of player scouting Mark Sadowski, among others, they have some experience with players from outside organizations. Weidl, for example, had been with the Eagles before being hired by the Steelers, while Sadowski was with the Bears.
Not coincidentally, Seumalo, Herbig and Clark all played for the Eagles when Weidl was in Philadelphia.
"The benefit of having new people in the building is that they've had access and gotten to know players and other places," Khan said. "I put a value on that. And Andy obviously knew those players and was able to vouch for them not only as players – you know, we can evaluate them on film and come up with a grade and decide whether it would work or not – but just having it's an advantage to have extra people in your building. Now I can kind of tell you about the person and how they are off the field and in the locker room."
It also adds some different perspectives to the draft, which will be held April 27 through 29.
The Steelers aren't tearing up the way they evaluate players completely. But Weidl, with input from the rest of the coaching staff, will help set the team's draft board.
"I'd say for the most part, the process is very similar to the way we did it before but just having fresh ideas, you know, Andy, Mark Sadowski, Sheldon white, just just hearing how they did certain things," Khan said. "We've incorporated some of those ideas without getting into detail.
"When we went to the Senior Bowl, we added some different things to how we looked at things. But we've had some great, fresh ideas from those guys. But for the most part, I'd say it's the same, very similar."
And while Khan said at the NFL Scouting Combine, he considers himself aggressive, he might not be aggressive when it comes to the upcoming draft in particular.
The Steelers currently have three picks in the first two rounds, owning 17, 32 and 49 after acquiring Chicago's second-round pick via the trade of wide receiver Chase Claypool at the trade deadline last season. They have seven selections overall.
And in this year's draft, which is considered deep, if somewhat lacking in immediate stars, the additional early picks are attractive.
"This is a really good draft and I'm very fortunate that my first draft is really good," Khan said. "So I love the idea of having a lot of picks, but you know, all options are on the table. Obviously there's an opportunity to trade up to get a player that we think that's an impact player and can help us right away, or be a good long-time Steeler, we're going to evaluate it, but all options are on the table."