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Steelers could consider claim for LB Shaq Leonard after release by Colts Tuesday

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need at linebacker. Should they sign Shaquille Leonard?

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The NFL world is surprised by a move the Indianapolis Colts have made on Tuesday.

Linebacker Shaquille Leonard was cut Tuesday by the Colts after six seasons with the team. The former second-round pick was drafted by the Colts in 2018 and had emerged into one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Once he signed a five-year, $98.5 million contract extension in 2021, however, his play began to decline and he was unable to match the level of play he had on his rookie deal.

With Leonard waived by the Colts, he will now go through waivers, and there’s a chance that any of the 31 other teams could claim him, including the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s no secret that the Steelers need inside linebacker help, especially after losing Cole Holcomb (knee) and Kwon Alexander (Achilles) to season-ending injuries earlier this month. Pittsburgh has found some reinforcements, signing Mykal Walker and adding Blake Martinez from the Carolina Panthers practice squad. Myles Jack also un-retired and joined the team’s practice squad, but Leonard would be an upgrade over all of those guys, despite his poor play over the course of this season.

It would also cost the Steelers a lot of money if they were to claim him off waivers, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

If a team were to claim Shaq Leonard off of waivers, it would owe him $6.11M for the remainder of this season.

He’s under contract through 2026, due as follows:

2024: ~$16.1M

2025: ~$19M

2026: ~$19.6M

If the Steelers think the move is worth it, Leonard could join the team as Pittsburgh eyes a return to the postseason. It would require some work on the cap, however, as the Steelers currently rank 29th in the league with just $3,327,660 in available cap space for the 2023 season, per Spotrac.