Mason Cole Prefers Playing Center Over Guard: ‘I Like The Leadership Aspect’

Since signing a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason, Mason Cole has been under a microscope.

Historically, few NFL teams covet the center position as much as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Maurkice Pouncey never had their merits at the position questioned as often as Cole has in the past year.

Center or guard? That is the question fans have argued over for Cole as they try to piece together their “dream” offensive line. Despite the ongoing questioning, Cole has remained firm in his stance that he is most comfortable snapping the ball.

“I just thought physically center was the best position for me,” Cole said to writer Dale Lolley in a recent 1-on-1 interview. “I had played guard, but only started a handful of games at guard. Had plenty of starts at center and I just like the leadership aspect, the vocal aspect of playing center and just having control and understanding of what’s going on and helping the guys around me.”

Cole was a steady presence for the Steelers this past season. According to PFF, he was only guilty of allowing two sacks on 1114 snaps. He did this while battling injuries to his foot/ankle for the entirety of the year. He started all 17 games as the Steelers’ center after logging more time at guard with the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. In college at Michigan, he bounced between playing left tackle and center, a man who has always been on the move. Keeping him at center will create continuity he hasn’t often had.

Having Cole as the vocal leader of the offensive line showed its worth during the season’s final stretch. In the first seven games of the season, the Steelers produced just 87.8 yards per game, well below the league average. However, in the final eleven games, they bumped that number up to 132 yards per game finishing 16th overall in the league with a final rushing average of 121.9.

PFF also rated the Steelers as the league’s 7th-best pass-protecting efficient offensive line with a grade of 87.9. Outside of the numbers, the unit just felt more connected and efficient during the last several games of the season leading to their improbable playoff push.

As the on-field general in the trenches, Mason Cole was paramount in that turnaround. Does that mean Cole is next in line as a legendary Pittsburgh center? Probably not. Still, after playing in the league for five years, there’s enough evidence to prove what Cole is — a solid, middle-of-the-pack starter in the NFL. But more than anything, Cole is what he has said he is. An NFL center.

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