Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: iOL Mason Cole
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: At the start of free agency, the Steelers signed veteran interior offensive lineman Mason Cole to a three-year contract worth $15.75 million.
The Steelers re-signed their starting right tackle and two outside free agents who will likely be starters this season. That’s not exactly mission accomplished in terms of completing a full rebuild of the offensive line, which they understand was a major hindrance last season, more than it had been previously.
While there is still work to do, of course, the additions that they have made should be for the better. Cole has had a bit of a complicated history as far as being viewed as a starter goes, but it’s likely that he will start in Pittsburgh, whether at center or guard.
A former third-round draft pick, Cole has started 39 of 60 career games, the significant majority of them being at center, and he has been open about the fact that, if given the option, playing center would be his clear preference. But he does have experience starting at guard as well, and will be in play there as well.
The question is how Kendrick Green fits into the equation. At least, it’s one of the questions. He was their primary center last season as a rookie, even though he significantly struggled. Green could theoretically start at either center or guard as well.
Fellow free-agent signing James Daniels is locked into one starting spot, and that is almost surely going to be at guard. That leaves Kevin Dotson and perhaps J.C. Hassenauer in the running with Cole and Green for the other two interior starting jobs, Dotson being the only one who can’t play center.
Cole’s strength is his run blocking, which the Steelers saw firsthand last season against the Minnesota Vikings, who saw Dalvin Cook rush for over 200 yards against Pittsburgh. His pass protection can be worked on—and it will have to be if he expects to be a long-term solution.