Skip to main content


Tomlin, Khan waiting, preparing for start of NFL Draft

The waiting, as Tom Petty so famously crooned, is the hardest part.

That's the case for Steelers general manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin as they count the minutes down to the upcoming NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday.

The pre-draft preparation is now complete. The team has run through scenario after scenario. The only thing remaining on the docket is to do the actual selection of players.

It's like making out your Christmas list as a kid, but not knowing exactly which presents you're going to receive.

"We've gone through a ton of hypotheticals," Khan said Monday at the Steelers' pre-draft press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex he held with Tomlin. "I'd say the board, we try not to overthink this too much. But I'd say that it's close to being where we feel comfortable. But, you know, we're going through a million scenarios right now. It's just part of the strategy process and these next few days are going to feel like a year. But yeah, I'm ready to get there."

The Steelers own seven picks in the upcoming draft, including the 20th selection in the first round, No. 51 in round 2, 84 and 98 in round 3, 119 in Round 4 and 178 and 195 in the sixth round.

They know that they'll acquire at least seven new members of their 2024 roster. The question, however, is who and at what positions.

But after an active free agency period in which the team acquired a number of potential starters, including quarterback Russell Wilson, linebacker Patrick Queen, safety DeShon Elliott, cornerback Donte Jackson and punter Cameron Johnston, among others, the direction they choose to go with their picks is open.

"I'm excited about the draft because of just the quality work that we've been able to get done in free agency as a means by which we develop our football team for 2024," Tomlin said. "We've been very active in free agency, and that makes you really comfortable as we lean in on draft weekend. You know we've addressed a lot of needs and you don't feel overly thirsty in any particular area, and I just think that's a good feeling as you go into the weekend."

That doesn't mean the Steelers won't have an intent on providing additional competition at a number of positions.

After trading wide receiver Diontae Johnson to the Panthers in a deal to acquire Jackson, the Steelers opened a spot in their starting lineup at wide receiver opposite George Pickens, who is coming off a 1,000-yard season. The team signed veterans Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins in free agency, and also added kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, but could still be looking to supplement that position in the draft, which is deep at that position.

"I'm comfortable with the trajectory of that room," Tomlin said. "There's a lot of talent available to us. And a lot of those guys participate. If you look at the kid from the Rams (Puka Nacua) was really significant this year and think maybe it was a fifth-round pick. That's what's going on at that position. So, it makes us all comfortable, not just us, but us as a collective, the National Football League.

"And certainly we're really comfortable with the trajectory of George Pickens in terms of what he's going to be able to provide us as a player, not only in terms of playmaking, but what he's experienced within the room and within this organization."

The Steelers also released center Mason Cole at the start of free agency. It has other options at the spot, as guards Nate Herbig, James Daniels and Isaac Seumalo all have played center at some point in their respective careers, but like the wide receiver position, competition could be added.

"It's an important position and I've mentioned this before, but we have guys on the roster that have flexibility," Khan said. "So we have options there but it's you know, there are some good players at the position, and we'll see where it shakes out.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

"There's a handful of centers that are going to be starters in the NFL this year, in years to come. But it's no different than the other positions. There's good players at all these positions."

The key is trusting the process the Steelers have just gone through in identifying the players they feel comfortable adding to their roster.

Between the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, on-campus pro days and in-person visits, the team has sat down and talked to hundreds of players during this process, weeding through information to settle on the right fits.

"I don't know that there's a cookie cutter formula," Khan said. "It's about the players. It's about their floor, it's about their ceiling, it's about their readiness. And so there's a lot of variables in the equation. That's why it requires a lot of discussion. And that's what's been ongoing for us."

Also ongoing are talks with other teams regarding potential trades, both up and down. That groundwork is usually laid before the draft, though Khan said last year's deal to move up three spots to select offensive tackle Broderick Jones came together during the opening round of the draft.

"We have plenty of strategy meetings. We've already started between now and Thursday," Khan said. "Where would the threshold be, where our comfort level is with certain guys. There's a million hypotheticals you go through right now and amongst the GMs, we all talk amongst each other. So we kind of have a feel of who wants to move up, move down, and you're kind of prepared. I'd say we probably have a good idea before we're even on the clock."