What’s next for new Steelers GM Omar Khan?
It didn’t take long for new Steelers General Manager Omar Khan to get comfortable in his new role.
Shortly after taking over for former GM Kevin Colbert at the beginning of June, Khan got down to business. His first move would be extending Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The deal would make Fitzpatrick the highest-paid safety in the league.
The timing of the deal caught some off-guard, as Colbert would typically wait until players report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe for training camp before inking new contracts.
Khan’s first move as GM came roughly one month before players report to camp – but he wasn’t done yet.
Days after learning that DE Stephon Tuitt would retire from football and not return for the 2022 season, Khan brought in former Browns and Bengals DT Larry Ogunjobi for a workout. Ogunjobi wouldn’t leave the building without a contract, a one-year deal worth $8 million.
The figure is substantial, as Ogunjobi had a $50 million contract in place with the Chicago Bears that was voided months earlier. This signing would be the first “bargain” contract under Khan’s tenure, but there might be more coming down the pike.
Here’s some ideas of what could be next for the new GM.
Extending Chris Boswell
The Steelers had some issues with kickers after steady Shaun Suishan was injured in the preseason Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio back in 2015. Later that season, after losing a kicker to injury and trading for another who blew too many kicks, Pittsburgh found a diamond in the rough by signing Boswell.
Boswell would end up making the Pro Bowl in 2017, but had a downturn in 2018 where fans were calling for his release.
Those cat calls look foolish now, as most experts consider the “Wizard of Boz” one of the best, if not the best in the game today – usually trading accolades back-and-forth with rival Baltimore Raven Justin Tucker, in much the same way people compared safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.
This season, Boswell enters the final year of his extension signed back in 2018. He’s one of the next likely candidates to receive a new contract and I would expect that Khan is already in talks of doing so.
Bring Diontae Johnson to the table
Wide receiver contracts are through the roof recently, which might make the almost certain re-signing of Johnson not so likely these days.
That hasn’t stopped the rumors that Johnson could be sitting out camp, or is demanding a new deal, however.
Expect there to be a lot of chatter surrounding Diontae’s contract status in the coming weeks. Whether an actual deal is struck between the team and player, is another story – and not one I’m counting on in 2022, as the Steelers recently drafted Georgia’s George Pickens and Memphis’ Calvin Austin III to help shore up the depth in the receiver room.
Adding another running back
There’s been plenty of say over Najee Harris’ workload from last season, and whether the Steelers will continue to deploy a “bell cow” mentality in their backfield.
Regardless if they do or not, it would be wise for the team to add a veteran running back to their stable.
Current backup Benny Snell has never had a full opportunity to show he can be a consistent second option, and regardless if he is, should Harris go down for any extended period of time, it would put Snell at risk also. (Snell has also been dinged through his first three seasons in the league too.)
The Steelers should be on the lookout for camp casualties, via release or trade, that could fit the bill of a DeAngelo Williams or Stevan Ridley, both former veterans who happened to give the team a boost in the past when called upon.
One more tackle couldn’t hurt
The Pittsburgh Steelers are returning both of their starting offensive tackles this season, as well as their backup swing tackle from last year.
However, Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr., and Joe Haeg may still have to prove they are starters in this league, let alone backup material. That leaves a lot to be desired for tackle depth, and the organization could once again look outside of its walls to potentially add another body if they feel the fit isn’t right.
Keep in mind, they will likely roster eight or nine offensive linemen in total: those three mentioned above will be joined by Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green, plus free agent additions James Daniels and Mason Cole.
That makes a nice even seven players along with last year’s backup guard/center J.C. Hassenhauer and maybe some viable competition for another spot between veteran Chaz Green and undrafted surprise from 2021, Joe Leglue.
But I wouldn’t count on those names being the last ones in the mix. Just one injury would leave them incredibly thin on the outside, a position that’s already far from a solid one for the Steelers.