Rookie GM Omar Khan Shakes Things Up With Pittsburgh Steelers

Omar Khan showed in his first NFL trade deadline that things will be different with him serving as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager.

The Steelers made two trades Tuesday. If nothing else, it showed Khan is willing to shake things up on a team off to a 2-6 start and coming off being blown out by the Eagles 35-13 on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool was dealt to the Chicago Bears for a 2023 second-round draft pick. Cornerback William Jackson was acquired from the Washington Commanders along with a 2025 conditional seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2025 conditional sixth-round pick.

Kevin Colbert, Khan’s predecessor, was not totally averse to trading. However, he rarely made any significant deals at the deadline and was much more geared to building the roster through the draft during his 21-year tenure as GM that ended in April when he retired.

Khan was able to at least recoup comparable draft capital for Claypool, who never seemed to quite fit in with the Steelers.

Claypool was a second-round pick in 2020 from Notre Dame. He was also the Steelers’ first selection that year because Colbert had traded the first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. It is the only year since 1967 that the Steelers haven’t had a first-rounder.

This season, Claypool had 32 receptions in eight games. He was tied for second on the team in that category.

However, Claypool also had just 311 yards for an average of 9.7 yards a reception. The Steelers anticipated him being more of a deep threat when they drafted him and he had averages of 14.1 and 14.6 in his first two seasons.

While Claypool’s YPC dropped this season – and perhaps part of that can be pinned on offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s play calling — rookie George Pickens began getting more snaps. The second-round choice from Georgia has 26 receptions for 338 and one TD.

Pickens’ role as the primary deep threat figures to continue to grow behind WR1 Diontae Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Steelers will pay the remainder of Jackson’s $2.75-million salary this season in the second year of the three-year, $40.5-million contract he signed with the Commanders as a free agent. The 30-year-old has a $12.75-million cap hit next season and it’s hard to imagine the Steelers bringing him back in 2023 without a reworked contract.

The acquisition of Jackson is a bit of a headscratcher on the surface as he was benched by the Commanders after four games this season and was reportedly on the verge of being released. Pro Football Focus’ season grade for him is just 49.6, which puts him 94th among the 110 cornerbacks ranked.

However, the grade is better than that of two other Steelers’ corners. Levi Wallace is rated 98th with a grade of 48.2 and Ahkello Witherspoon’s 45.4 grade ranks 101st.

The Steelers are also next to last in the NFL in the pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards a game. Only the Atlanta Falcons’ 306.9 mark is worse.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has also long been a fan of Jackson’s.

The Steelers reportedly planned to take Jackson in the first round of the 2016 draft with the 25th pick following his collegiate career at Houston. However, the Cincinnati Bengals selected him at 24 and the Steelers pivoted to Miami cornerback Artie Burns.

Burns made a minimal impact in his four seasons with the Steelers and started just seven games combined in his last two years.

Khan is obviously hoping for a bigger impact from Jackson. Whether the seven-year veteran can give the Steelers what they desire remains to be seen.