If the Pittsburgh Steelers needed help at the quarterback position, and was considered a top team need, the center position wasn’t far from the top of most fans’ lists of team needs. After signing Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year contract Monday, the team started to focus on the offensive line.
This per Adam Schefter of ESPN:
Former Cardinals and Vikings’ center Mason Cole intends to sign a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2022
When this news spread, the first thought is how it impacts the team’s plans with 2021 third round pick Kendrick Green. Green played the majority of snaps at center last season, and it was obvious he was not only out of position, but out-manned at times.
For those who don’t know much about Cole, who has spent his entire career in the NFC, he is a 6’ 5” 298lb center who was drafted by Arizona out of Michigan in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was traded to to the Vikings last season for a 6th round draft pick.
Cole has started 39 games in his time in the NFL, and when you include Cole into the team’s depth chart, you have to imagine he will have every possible opportunity to be the team’s starting center when offseason workouts begin this spring.
When you consider the Steelers adding Cole and re-signing Okorafor, they are doing their diligence on the offense, and especially the offensive line. The Steelers love to address their needs in free agency, which allows them to attack the NFL Draft with a best player available approach. It seem as if this offseason, when they are equipped with almost $29 million in salary cap space, is no different than any other.
For more information on Cole, this is from our own Andrew Wilbar when he wrote about three center free agents the Steelers should target:
Cole is a former third-round pick of the Cardinals who was a starter two of his three years with the team. After being traded to the Vikings in 2021, Cole was expected to be the primary backup at both center and guard, but with Garrett Bradbury’s struggles, Cole saw increased playing time as the season progressed. He finished the season with 0 penalties and only 2 sacks in 471 offensive snaps. As a matter of fact, Cole is only responsible for 7 sacks and 12 penalties in 2,537 snaps in his NFL career. Those are incredibly solid numbers, especially for someone who is perceived by many as just an average starter at best.
Communication and consistency have been the driving forces to Cole’s success, and while he is not the most athletic or powerful lineman, he provides stability at one of the most important positions in football. Another interesting part about Cole is that he played a good amount of left tackle in college as well, earning a second-team All-Big Ten nomination at that position in 2017. His pass blocking was not strong enough to last on the outside when transitioning to the pros, but in an emergency, he could move outside at the snap of a finger. Cole is the best buy in the pool of free agent centers, as he will provide starter-capable play at a relatively cheap price. With the uncertainty surrounding Kendrick Green at center, he would be an ideal player to target.
There is a good chance this isn’t the last move the team makes in free agency, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.