Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: C Mason Cole
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The fifth-year veteran seemingly established himself as a full-time starter during a career full of stops and starts. He also became a fixture in the locker room and perhaps a budding leader, a team spokesman, and a respected ‘brother’ after toughing out the year through injuries.
You didn’t often hear Mason Cole talk about his health this past season in spite of the fact that he often found himself on the injury reports. He was the only starting lineman on the season to miss more than one snap, and even if he only missed 46, the fact is that he did have to exit three separate games due to injuries.
The most significant was the second game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, during which he logged less than half of the snaps due to injury. The injury to his foot kept him out of practice for a day and a half the following week, but he started and played every snap in the next game, a Monday night contest.
Obviously, this isn’t just about Cole’s ability to play through injury, but the fact that he did is still notable. And it also comments on his ability. He did play better when he was healthier, so one would conclude that if he is able to stay healthier next season, we should see an even better Cole in 2023.
As indicated by his winning the media award for the 2022 season, he is also a good communicator. That doesn’t just pertain to the media but also with his teammates. It didn’t take long to establish himself as a vocal presence in the offensive line room, even if it is a young and inexperienced one.
People weren’t even sure initially if the Steelers signed Cole to be a starter last year. But he immediately stepped in as the first-team center and never had his job contested at any point. I wouldn’t expect there to be any threat to his job in 2023 barring the possibility that the top prospect on their board at 17 or 32 just so happens to be a center. And even then, he would likely be moved to guard, even if his preference is center.