On Tuesday, HC Mike Tomlin spoke to the media in his weekly press conference where he talked about the team’s win on Monday Night Football on the road against the Indianapolis Colts and previewed the team’s upcoming Week 12 matchup on the road against the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday.
When Tomlin was asked about the play of C Mason Cole in his first season with the tam and hi play despite being limited all season with various ailments, Tomlin commended his starting center for being a consistent, reliable presence leading the charge upfront on the offensive line.
“Man, he’s a sharp guy,” Tomlin said to the media Tuesday on video from the team’s YouTube channel. “He brings a can-do attitude. He’s a winner in his approach to ball. He’s a good communicator. His football intellect is really solid and is helpful at that position in terms of the identification of protections and the picking up of blitz game.”
Cole signed with the Steelers this offseason on a three-year deal that totals out at $15.75 million. Prior to signing with the Steelers, Cole played in 60 total games with the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, starting 39 of them at both center and guard. Cole has been recognized as a high-end backup/serviceable starter during his tenure in the league after coming out of Michigan, having mobility and aggressiveness as a run blocker, yet lacking the size and strength to displace bigger defensive linemen off their spot in the run game whilst having the tendency to get pushed back in the pocket for being a lighter center.
Still, no one should question Cole’s toughness as he has been on-and-off the injury report all season while battling a foot injury that has been affecting him since the start of the 2022 campaign. While leaving last Sunday’s game early against the Bengals early due to injury, Cole managed to battle his way back onto the field and played well against the Colts, helping Pittsburgh rush for 172 yards on the ground while providing the unit with a stable presence that can call out protections and ID blitzes like Tomlin mentioned.
Cole may never push for a Pro Bowl nod, but he has been a vast improvement over the play of Kendrick Green from last season, and Pittsburgh has seen that investment produce fruit in recent weeks with the improved running game. While the team may need to search for a better long-term solution at center, Cole meanwhile can hold his own as a good locker room guy that has the character and commitment to give his best on a down-to-down basis, being a cerebral player along the offensive line that has helped this unit improve over the last several weeks.