As the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers continue their preparation for the upcoming season at St. Vincent College, Tuesday brought a press conference from Steeler’s general manager Omar Khan. Since there was a number of questions asked about players, it’s time for another installment of the “players mentioned” article. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
There were so many questions asked about Diontae Johnson and his contract situation, it’s best to just get to them. Khan was asked if there is anything going on with Deonte Johnson.
“Conversations we have with Diontae and his representatives are going to stay between us. We won’t discuss them publicly. But we’ve been in conversations.”
In a later question, Khan was asked If he is okay with Johnson sitting out.
“Obviously, you want everyone out practicing. We’ve taken the approach that we’re using it as an opportunity to look at the other guys that are practicing. Especially the young guys get some good work. Let’s just say we want Diontae. We’re excited to have him as part of this team. We hope he’s going to be a Steeler for a long time.”
In a follow-up question, Khan was asked if Johnson not being able to work with the new quarterbacks is a concern of his and Coach Tomlin.
“I can’t speak for Coach. Obviously, like I mentioned, you wish you had everybody out there practicing. Sometimes it’s for different reasons. Sometimes it can be for injuries. Our focus is on the guys that are practicing. We’re taking the opportunity to evaluate those guys, see how they connect.”
In another follow-up question, Khan was asked about the wide receiver market taking off recently.
“I think it’s a function of the times and the system that we’re in. It’s just part of the process. Positionally, regardless of the position, I assume those things are going to continue to grow. As the CBA grows, the contracts will grow.”
In a later question, Khan was asked about Diontae Johnson holding in compared to the other players who have done so in the last year and if he is concerned of it becoming too much of a norm.
“Every one of these situations is different. Obviously, that’s something that’s happened league wide, right? Happened more this year than last year. Realistically it’s probably going to continue to happen league wide.”
In yet another later question, Khan was asked if he can fine players who are healthy and not practicing and if he’s explored that option.
“There are obviously options out there. We’re focused on wanting Diontae here, so... We’ll keep those discussions, as you can imagine, internal.”
The final question regarding Diontae Johnson had to do with the recent signings of other wide receivers in the last week around the NFL and how it affects the market for Johnson.
“Obviously when things happen, it adds to the conversation. Let me put it that way, yeah.”
T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, & Chris Boswell
Over the last year, the Steelers have worked out contract extension with three players going into the last year of their deal, all of which received the top dollar for their position. Khan was asked if these deals with T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Chris Boswell signify a change in philosophy or if it’s a byproduct of the salary cap.
“Every one of those situations is different. A lot of factors go into it. I don’t really want to discuss specifics of any one of those deals. A lot of factors go into each one of them.”
With Chris Boswell‘s deal being the most recent as it was made official just before the press conference, Khan was asked how different it was negotiating a deal such as this as the general manager as opposed to his previous role.
“Yeah, I’d say from their standpoint I don’t think there was much difference. Cole Marcoux was heavily involved who works for me. Not much difference.”
Despite being the final first-round draft pick of former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, Omar Khan will have some input into the implementation and acclamation of Kenny Pickett. Khan was asked what would be a successful training camp for Pickett.
“Kenny Pickett? That’s a good question. I would say the growth. He’s a young quarterback. There’s a lot being thrown at him. I would just say from his standpoint, to be able to say on the day he leaves camp that he’s in a lot better position than he was day one. I think that’s important for him. I have all the confidence that he’ll get there.”
After getting his foot stepped on the previous day, the health of Najee Harris comes even more to the forefront as the Steelers look to shape their running back depth chart. Khan was asked about dividing up the carries at running back in the preseason in order to preserve Harris‘ health come the regular season.
“Coach will manage Najee with respect to the carries and all that. We’re always going to be ready to have the next guy up if needed based on injuries or whatever the situation might be.”
In a follow up question, Khan was asked his level of concern when he saw the starting running back come hopping off the field.
“You never like seeing anyone get hurt. Obviously, Najee is Najee. Don’t like seeing that. Don’t foresee it being an issue.”
Calvin Austin III & George Pickens
As Diontae Johnson continues to not participate in team activities, the opportunity for rookies Calvin Austin and George Pickens increase. Khan was asked about how the Steelers evaluate talent at the wide receiver for the NFL draft.
“We have certain characteristics that we look at in receivers. It’s worked for us. I’m not going to discuss them in public for obvious reasons. We’ve stayed true to our beliefs, and it’s worked for us.”
In a follow-up question, Khan was asked what has impressed him the most from these two players so far.
“Their growth, their maturity, their excitement, their energy. You guys have seen George out there. He brings a lot of energy out there.”
One player who is being eased into things as he recovers from an injury last postseason is newly signed defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Khan was asked if there was an understanding it might take him a little bit to get ready this season.
“I’ll be honest. We’re just trying to be smart with the situation. Larry O is ready to go. We’re just trying to be smart. We understood where he was, and we wouldn’t have signed him if we weren’t confident that he was going to be ready to go. We’re just trying to be smart. There’s still a lot of football to happen before September 11.”
Omar Khan’s media session can be seen below: