PITTSBURGH — Omar Khan tried to keep the smile from crossing his face when Art Rooney II broke the news to him.
But minutes after accepting the job as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Khan couldn’t contain his emotions.
“When I was sitting with Art and he told me, I tried to control myself not to smile too much,” Khan said on Friday. “I was very, very – I was thrilled. It was a dream come true. I actually gave him a hug on the way out. It’s awesome.”
Khan, 45, was announced as the next chief executive earlier this week, taking over from longtime chief executive Kevin Colbert after Khan spent more than two decades with the organization, mostly in football and coaching roles. business Administration.
“Obviously we went with the guy that we know very well,” Rooney said. “I’m delighted that we know Omar, Omar knows us, and I think it will be a pretty smooth transition.”
Although Khan is the Steelers’ first general manager without an ingrained background in talent assessment since the 1970s, he doesn’t foresee much change in the way he or the organization operates.
“I think it’s going to be an easy transition,” Khan said. “Coach T [Mike Tomlin] and I’ve had a great relationship for the past 16 years. We confided in a lot of things. We spent a lot of time together. It will be a smooth transition.”
In signing Khan, the Steelers went with both a familiar face and a fresh approach, marrying the past with the future.
“I’m confident time will show it was the right move for this franchise,” Khan said. “I’m excited. I can tell you that I don’t take anything for granted. I understand the expectations that come with this job. I can assure everyone that the expectations I set for myself are even higher.”
Khan, who was born in New Orleans, is the son of two immigrants. Her mother was born in Honduras and her father is Indian. After realizing he wasn’t good enough to play football, he shifted gears and made working in the NFL his dream, modeling his work ethic after that of his parents.
“Today is as much about them as it is about me,” Khan said of her parents. “They are also the ones who had to listen to a kid of 8, 9, 10, 12, 14 tell them that he didn’t want to be a lawyer, that he didn’t want to be an engineer, he didn’t want to be a doctor, a teacher , police officer, firefighter; all he wanted to do was work in the National Football League, become general manager and win a bunch of Super Bowls.”
He got his start with the New Orleans Saints organization in player personnel roles for four seasons before joining the Steelers.
As vice president of football and business administration, Khan served as the Steelers’ top negotiator and expert on salary caps. He will retain many of these responsibilities and he is also building a team of front office staff who have a strong background in scouting.
Khan announced on Friday that he was hiring former Philadelphia Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl — a Pittsburgh-area product — and former Detroit Lions vice president of player personnel Sheldon White , and elevated Dan Colbert, previously a college veteran and professional scout, to a senior position. Titles for Khan’s hires have not been determined, and he said that because the situation is fluid, he does not know if Kevin Colbert – who stepped down as general manager after the draft will end up on his team . Brandon Hunt is heading to the Eagles to join their scouting department, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN’s Kimberley A. Martin.
“I’m confident in saying that I’ve touched all aspects of football operations, obviously some more than others,” Khan said. “But I think every good leader understands their strengths and weaknesses, which I’m not going to talk about here publicly, but I think every good leader surrounds themselves with smart people who are going to help them succeed, and that’s my plan. “
Khan also said he would continue the longstanding policy of not negotiating contracts during the season, he said on Friday, although he was ready to breathe a new set of ideas into the organization. .
“Anything that can help us improve or win football games, we will look at it and use it,” Khan said. “I have some cool ideas that I think I will implement.”