Steelers GM Omar Khan’s Draft Day Strategy: Trade Up, Trade Down, or Make a Big Move?

PITTSBURGH — It’s been close to two years since Omar Khan was hired as the Steelers general manager and less than a year since Mike Tomlin threw the nickname “Khan Artist” out there at the new GM following his first draft — a draft that saw four of the seven draft picks be acquired through some form of trade.

Not known for their movement up or back in the draft, the Steelers went in a different direction last year under Khan by moving up three spots in the first round to draft Broderick Jones; acquiring the 32nd pick (Joey Porter Jr.) from the Bears the year prior by trading Chase Claypool; and dropped 13 spots in the third round to be able to get Darnell Washington and pick up Nick Herbig later in the draft.

With Khan having nine trades under his leadership in 23 months in a league that has small windows to trade in with an organization that tended to be more conventional with its approach, anything and everything is always on the table.

With the draft set for next week — a big opportunity where teams can and will make trades — and the Steelers having significant holes at significant positions that may not be able to be filled immediately with a draft pick, it is quite likely that the “Khan Artist” will make draft moves to upgrade the roster.

“I don’t ever necessarily consider myself or describe myself as aggressive,” Khan said. “You know, I’m trying to do everything I can to help. I owe it to Steeler Nation to do everything I can to try to get to the Super Bowl. And every decision that we make and that we talk about, every move that we make and talk about is based on that. Sometimes we make moves, we make decisions. Sometimes we don’t, but it’s always with the intent of doing what we can to get to the second week in February.”

And remember, these may seem like highly unlikely scenarios, but with Khan, he’s shown us time and time again that anything and everything is on the table.

Steelers’ draft picks














Compensatory, from Eagles







From Cardinals




Trading up in Round 1

This is the most likely scenario for the Steelers. Last year, they moved from 20 to 17 and all it cost them was the 140th pick because they pinpointed Jones as within reasonable reach to pull the trigger. The Steelers could find themselves in a similar situation that might result in the same plan.

It’s not a secret the Steelers are interested in a right tackle. They brought in 11 offensive linemen for pre-draft visits, with some of the top right tackles in the draft in Amarius Mims, Tyler Guyton, Troy Fautanu and Taliese Fuaga, as well as centers Jackson Powers-Johnson, Zach Frazier and Graham Barton.

Even a guy like JC Latham could fall to a place in the first round that forces the Steelers to move up.

The offensive line appears to be the spot where need meets availability at the 20th spot in the draft, which makes it a real possibility they can move up to snag one they want. Now, it would be highly unlikely for them to move up to grab one of their top three centers on the board as they would much prefer one falling to them at 20 or, best-case scenario, into the second round, where Khan could potentially move up to get a guy like Frazier or Powers-Johnson.

Out of all the scenarios, moving up in the first round to draft a right tackle has to be at the top.

Alabama offensive tackle JC Latham was a first-team All-SEC performer last season and earned multiple first-team All-American honors. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

Trading down in Round 1

Times have changed with the way the Steelers approach the draft — that’s for sure — but one thing that will remain constant is not trading back in the first round.

They haven’t done that since moving back three picks from 16 to 19 in 2001 to draft Casey Hampton, but nose tackles in a 3-4 defense weren’t necessarily in high demand nearly 25 years ago.

The Steelers also got a fourth- and sixth-round pick that resulted in Mathias Nkwenti and Rodney Bailey.

How the Steelers are constructed on defense and especially with quarterback Russell Wilson playing for the veteran minimum, the Steelers are in win-now mode. Trading back in the draft isn’t a win-now move as it is more of a building-a-roster move with extra picks coming your way.

With Khan’s reputation of making things happen, it would be highly unlikely that an extra fourth-round pick would be worth moving down a couple of spots. Now, the middle rounds are a different animal. They were able to wait out Washington last year and ended up reaping the rewards of Herbig.


NFL Draft 2024 ‘The Beast’ Guide: Dane Brugler’s scouting reports and player rankings

Trading for a receiver

If there is one glaring need for the Steelers, it is at receiver. They have burgeoning superstar George Pickens but not much of anything after him. They traded Diontae Johnson and cut Allen Robinson while bringing in role players Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins to join the likes of Denzel Mims, Dez Fitzpatrick and Marquez Callaway.

The closest thing they have to an experienced receiver behind Pickens is Calvin Austin III, who missed his entire rookie year and was pretty much a non-factor last year despite a solid preseason.

The draft is loaded with receiver talent, but if you aren’t taking one in the first round, the first-year impact usually isn’t much unless you are Anquan Boldin (101 receptions, 1,377 yards, eight TDs as a Round 2 rookie in 2003) or Puka Nacua (105-1,486-6, fifth-rounder last season).

“History tells me the Steelers aren’t afraid to be patient after the first round,” ESPN draft analyst Field Yates said. “I think the depth of this wide receiver class helps a team like the Steelers well.”

It is a foregone conclusion that the Steelers will add a veteran receiver at some point. With the draft being one of three sweet spots during the calendar year to make a trade (cut-down day and trade deadline the others), you can’t overlook the possibility of packaging a player and a pick for a receiver.

“I think, from my standpoint, you just have to be patient,” Khan said. “I’m confident by the time we get to the start of the season, we’ll have the right 53 guys for us regardless of position. But you just have to be patient and understand that when you lose one opportunity, it’s not the last opportunity. There will be an opportunity to address it in other ways.”

Scoop City Newsletter

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up


The name out there now is Brandon Aiyuk. How much interest the Steelers have or the 49ers have in moving him is unknown, but all indications point toward Aiyuk wanting a lucrative contract extension, which likely won’t come from San Francisco.

Tee Higgins is playing on the franchise tag in Cincinnati and wants a long-term deal. Chris Godwin is in the final year of his deal and unlikely to be re-signed next year after the Bucs gave big contracts to Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans this offseason.

The Bengals and 49ers don’t seem eager to move Higgins or Aiyuk, but if they did, the Steelers could be ready. Not much has been said about Godwin other than he has a $27.5 million cap hit and could save Tampa Bay $20 million by trading him.

All three would require contract extensions averaging more than $20 million per year. The Steelers have just over $11 million in cap space, but they have yet to restructure any contracts or manipulate Cam Heyward’s deal to be more cap-friendly. Plus, extensions are usually first-year light in the cap number, which means money wouldn’t be an issue.

Brandin Cooks could be an option for a trade, as well, as he enters his final year with the Cowboys.

Is a trade for a receiver likely?

No, but with Khan and the win-now approach, everything has to be in play.

Brandon Aiyuk hauled in 75 passes for 1,342 yards last season and averaged 17.9 yards per reception. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

Trading for a center

At the NFL league meetings last month, Khan said the Steelers have several ways to address their need at center, including exploring trade possibilities.

“All options are still on the table. There are some players out there still that are free agents. There’s maybe some trade opportunities, and then there’s a draft,” Khan said.

The Steelers have Nate Herbig with center experience after releasing Mason Cole in early February, but that has been fewer than 60 career plays. James Daniels played there in 2019, but he’s been a stalwart at right guard and would seem to be a long shot to move to center.

In reality, there isn’t much out there that would be considered a major move when it comes to trading for a center. It would be more likely that they draft one or potentially wait until training camp and sign a veteran like Connor Williams, who is still rehabbing an ACL tear.

(Top photo of Broderick Jones: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

2024-04-17 15:51:58
#Steelers #NFL #draftday #trade #scenarios #Omar #Khan #leading


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *