Steelers Part Ways With Offensive Starter

Mike Tomlin

Getty Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers announced releasing center Mason Cole on February 23.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving on from another veteran. On February 23, the Steelers announced they released starting center Mason Cole.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old started 35 games, including the playoffs, for the Steelers from 2022-23. He had one year remaining on his contract.

With his release, the Steelers saved $3.955 million in salary cap space based on the Rule of 51. The team accepted about $1.5 million in dead cap money with his release.

The Steelers signed Cole to a 3-year, $15.75 million contract ahead of the 2022 season. Cole played the first four seasons of his career with the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings.

In addition to Cole, the Steelers have cut quarterback Mitch Trubisky, offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and punter Pressley Harvin III since the Super Bowl.

Steelers Cut Center Mason Cole

Cole appeared to be a great addition for the Steelers after the 2022 season. Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora described Cole as “solid” along with “tough and durable.”

However, his play dropped off in 2023.

According to the Pro Football Focus player grades, Cole experienced the worst season of his career last year. He particularly struggled in pass blocking, posting a 32.4 pass protection grade (out of 100) at PFF.

“If you include the postseason, no center allowed more pressures in 2023 than Mason Cole, per PFF,” The Score’s Daniel Valente wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

“Center was going to be a huge need anyways but this was necessary.”

Cole began his career as a third-round pick for the Cardinals in 2018. He started all 16 games as a rookie.

After making 32 starts for the Cardinals, Arizona traded him to Minnesota for a sixth-round pick. He played in 14 games, making seven starts, in one season for the Vikings.

Also on February 23, the NFL announced the league’s salary cap increased an unprecedented $30 million for the 2024 season. That put the Steelers in a much better cap situation.

Combine that with the release of Cole, the Steelers have more than $12 million available in cap space.

How Do the Steelers Replace Cole?

Cole’s release will be celebrated because of his poor 2023 season and the cap money saved. But the Steelers don’t have another center on their roster.

So, the Steelers will enter free agency with a new need. Center could even become a priority with no fall back option on the roster.

With Cole’s release, the Steelers could have telegraphed to the rest of the league that they will be interested in drafting one of the top centers in the 2024 NFL draft.

Mock drafts this offseason have connected the Steelers to Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson and West Virginia center Zach Frazier.

“Don’t like to speak in certainties but top two rounds *at the least* feels very, very likely,” Kozora wrote on X.

Kozora then added that it is, “Hard to see the Steelers coming out of the draft without one of Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson or West Virginia’s Zach Frazier.”

The Steelers have been linked to Powers-Johnson at No. 20 overall in the first round. He talked to head coach Mike Tomlin at the 2024 Senior Bowl.

Steelers Now’s Derrick Bell projected the Steelers to target Frazier in the second round. But Frazier has also been receiving some late first-round interest in mock drafts.

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