Omar Khan: The Man Who Delivered The Steelers From Salary Cap Hell

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Omar Khan has made it possible for the Steelers to sign Antonio Brown, and soon, LeVeon Bell to long term contracts. Photo from http://www.cityofchampions.com

Every offseason, it has become a ritual for Steelers fans galaxy wide to vocalize their free agency wish list, which often includes a big, splashy, high dollar signing. Every year though, tight salary cap constraints have kept the Steelers from being able to dive into the deep end of the free agency pool. Despite being financially handcuffed, one man’s financial wizardry has helped the Steelers to remain one of the top teams in football, and his name is Omar Khan. In spite of the financial restraints, brought on by keeping an older team together for another Super Bowl title run, Khan has managed to help keep the Steelers among the elite teams by masterfully manipulating the salary cap. Years of diligent work and dedication has finally paid off, because Omar Khan has guided the Steelers out of salary cap hell.

Born and raised in New Orleans by an Indian father and a mother from Hondorus, Omar Khan wanted to work in the NFL for as long as he could remember. His love of football was passed on to him from his father who was a huge New Orleans Saints fan, along with an autographed photo of Louisiana native, Terry Bradshaw. Khan’s first job in football was as a student volunteer at Tulane, where he worked for head coach Buddy Teevans. While working for Teevans and his staff, young Omar did everything from filming practice to breaking down game film for the upcoming opponent. Khan impressed Teevans so much, that the coach secretly recommended Khan to Saints General Manager Bill Kuharich, which led to an internship and then a job for Omar Khan.

While at Tulane, Omar Khan earned a degree in sports management and a minor in business administration. His job with the Saints allowed him to round out his resume by gaining the experience of working day to day with the coaching staff. From 1998 through 1999, Khan worked closely with offensive quality control coach Mike McCarthy, breaking down game film and scouting the opponents strengths and weaknesses. Khan’s desire to know everything there is to know about the complete football operations side of things impressed Dan Rooney enough, that he placed a call to Tom Benson to enquire about Khan’s potential availability. Dan Rooney had just hired Kevin Colbert to be the Steelers General Manager, and now he needed someone to handle contract negotiations and to manage the salary cap.

With Tom Benson’s blessing, Dan Rooney hired Omar Khan in 2000, and brought him to the Steelers front office, where he has been one of the franchises most valuable assets. His efforts have made it possible for the Steelers to bring in free agents such as James Farrior and DeAngelo Williams, along with retaining Ben Roethlisberger with the franchise’s first $100 million contract. When the Steelers got old and needed to rebuild quickly, Khan made it possible to do it on the fly by moving money around through restructured contracts, and backloading them to lower the up front financial obligations. Omar Khan is a major reason why the Steelers haven’t had a season where they finished below .500 since 2003, and why they won Super Bowl’s XL and XLIII.

As good as Omar Khan has been with a tight cap, how good can he be with a $30 million cushion? It hasn’t taken long to find out. His hard work has made it possible for the Steelers to sign Antonio Brown to a 4 year/$68 million extension, keeping the game’s best receiver in Pittsburgh through the 2021 season. Khan has given the Steelers plenty of breathing room to also afford to be able to sign the NFL’s best running back, LeVeon Bell to a long term deal as well. Most people won’t realize just how good Omar Khan is at his job, and just how valuable he has been to the Steelers success until some team hires him away to be their GM. If Art Rooney II is smart, and he is, he needs to pay Mr. Khan a GM worthy salary with the promise of a promotion the moment Kevin Colbert leaves the building.

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