8 notable trends we have seen in Omar Khan's first 2 drafts as Steelers' GM

While the sample size is small, we are already seeing the Steelers draft trends reemerge under Omar Khan
A Pittsburgh Steelers logo during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus
A Pittsburgh Steelers logo during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have completed two drafts now under the Omar Khan era, and things certainly feel different than how things ended for Kevin Colbert. While he has benefited from the board breaking well for the team, Pittsburgh has been among the draft's major winners in back-to-back years.

They also got a good deal of production from their 2023 class. While we will have to wait a few months to see the 2024 class play, there seem to be a lot of ready-made starters. While I will dig into the quantitative side of things in the future, I wanted to put together a list of some of the major trends I’ve seen with Khan so far. Here are eight qualitative trends from the Khan regime in the draft.

Steelers draft trend #1: Balanced drafts

Over the past two years, the Steelers have made 14 total selections in the draft. Over that span, they have had an even balance of offensive and defensive players, with seven players being drafted from each group. This team wants to continue adding talent to both sides of the ball.

Not all of these picks have been equal though. For example, in 2024, the Steelers drafted four offensive players and three defenders. Four of their first five picks were on offense though as opposed to the more balanced 2023 approach. That said, don’t expect the team to ignore one side of the ball in their future drafts.

Steelers draft trend #2: Senior-heavy classes

This is a data point that is heavily skewed by the 2024 draft class, as all seven of the picks were seniors. You also had a notably older draft class in 2024 as NIL deals and Covid hangovers impacted that data. In total, ten of the team's picks over the past two seasons have been seniors though, so it is worth noting.

In particular, it is rare to see the team target so many seniors so early in the class. Historically, the team liked their day one and two picks to mostly be underclassmen as was the case in 2023. I would expect this trend to shift in a more typical year, but this team has no qualms about taking older prospects.

Steelers draft trend #3: Steelers play to draft strengths

Every draft every year is naturally different, and while talent will be found at all levels, some position groups are naturally deeper than others. For example, 2023 featured a deep pool of cornerbacks, tight ends, and edge rushers while tackle was top-heavy but shallow after that. They landed one of the top tackles and allowed the deeper boards to play themselves out.

2024 was no different with a deep receiver, cornerback, and offensive tackle class. While they didn’t pounce on an early cornerback, they benefited with a top tackle and receiver. To be fair, the draft strengths had matched up well with what the Steelers need, but the team also seems to be attacking free agency around how they expect the draft to break. This allows them to get some of the top talent in every round when they pick.

Steelers draft trend #4: Steelers are sticking with the big schools

This isn’t a new trend, as the team historically rarely dipped its toes in smaller school names with Colbert. But it is still worth noting, as this team is focused on bigger schools and Power-5 conferences. The lone exception, so far, has been Mason McCormick from South Dakota State.

Steelers draft trend #5: They value value

While we only have access to media big boards, the Steelers picks have certainly seemed to align themselves with what the national media views as good value when they are picking. Over the past two seasons, there isn’t a pick that stands out as an obvious reach, and most selections involve players most had ranked higher on their boards.

That isn’t to say that every pick is some sort of insane value. Logan Lee and Spencer Anderson seemed in line with where their draft value was and Zach Frazier was a logical target at pick 51 given the trends at the position, but most expected names like Joey Porter, Keeanu Benton, Roman Wilson, and Payton Wilson to be long gone before the Steelers picked. The value in the last two classes has been immense.

Steelers draft trend #6: Going heavy in the trenches

Perhaps this is due to the Philadelphia influence from Andy Weidl, or it could be the fact that Khan recognized the importance of improved trench play, but the Steelers have aggressively added to both their offensive and defensive line. This makes sense, as neither group was that deep before the two were brought in.

The offensive line, in particular, has been a primary target for this team, with five of their picks being dedicated to the group. This isn’t just starter hunting either, as McCormick and Spencer Anderson figure to provide good depth. The defensive line has seen two players added, and while Nick Herbig is technically a linebacker, edge rushers play on the line more often than not. While I would expect the offensive line investments to shrink over the next few years, I still expect trench play to be critical to this team.

Steelers draft trend #7: Who cares about injuries?

A slightly more concerning stat here, the Steelers seem to be gleefully ignorant of potential injuries with some of their draft selections. While all players have to be medically cleared in order to be drafted, there seem to be some long-term risks with their selections and their health.

In 2023 it was Darnell Washington and Cory Trice. Many failed Washington because of his knees while Trice had an extensive injury history in school. Troy Fautanu reportedly fell because of knee concerns while Payton Wilson is a walking hospital bill given his history of being hurt. A lot of these concerns are more long-term, but it is worth noting, especially if some of these players' careers are cut short because of the aforementioned injuries.

Steelers draft trend #8: The Pre-Draft visits are key

Pre-Draft visits are always a key in determining who a team is targeting. However, it is equally rare for the Steelers to select off that list so heavily. That has changed under the Khan regime, as nine of the picks over the past two years had visited the team before ultimately being the draft pick.

dark. Next. Initial grades for the Steelers widely praised 2024 draft class. Initial grades for the Steelers widely praised 2024 draft class

Of the eight total picks the team has made on either day one or two, seven of them were brought in for visits. The only one who wasn’t was Wilson this year, and he had Mike Tomlin and Khan at his Pro Day. While day three is more open season, the early picks need to have made a trip to Pittsburgh before the team will consider drafting them.