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Steelers ‘Have No Problem’ With Mason Cole, Dulac Says, Despite Post-Free Agency Speculation

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ moves along the offensive line this offseason have led to some speculation about what their plans might be. After signing two interior offensive linemen in free agency a year ago, they did so again in 2023—and four players can’t start at three positions.

The first lineman they signed was Nate Herbig, coming in on a two-year, $8 million deal. It was only later that they completed a more substantial deal for Isaac Seumalo, who would come in and be a plug-and-play starter.

But at least some began to wonder about the Herbig signing. Would he still start? Could James Daniels, one of last year’s free agents, move from right guard to center, where he has a lot of experience at both the college and professional levels? That would displace the other 2022 signing, Mason Cole, from the starting lineup.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac fielded a question in this vein during his most recent chat session last week, or at least in the ballpark. A user named Zack asked what the front office’s feelings were on Cole, observing that it seemed as though they feel they can upgrade from him.

“They have no problem”, Dulac said, with Mason Cole, adding, irrelevantly, that neither does he (for completeness’ sake, the questioner didn’t have a problem with Cole either, offering that he felt he was “pretty solid last year”).

I think most would agree that Cole was pretty solid last year, especially when you take the fact that he was playing injured much of the season into consideration. He still managed to start every game, only missing extended time in one outing.

A 2018 third-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals, Cole struggled to crack the starting lineup in a stable situation. He started right away due to injury, but the Cardinals acquired a Pro Bowler at his position in year two. In the final year of his rookie contract, he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, who had a young first-round starter at center.

The Steelers, on the other hand, had an opening after accepting that Kendrick Green likely wasn’t going to work out after starting at center during his rookie season in 2021. He was immediately moved to guard to compete for a job and Cole was plugged right in at center.

And he seemed to hold his own on all fronts, even in the locker room, emerging as a voice for what was still a fairly young and inexperienced line. But the ultimate question now: is he one of the Steelers’ top three interior offensive linemen? Is he their best center? Is his being on the field a part of their best starting formation?

These are presumably questions the Steelers have been taking under consideration all along. What we don’t know is how open they are to further answers. They have shown some interest in interior linemen during the draft process, most notably center John Michael Schmitz, which included bringing him in for a pre-draft visit. So perhaps they have no problem with Cole, but would they have a problem moving him out of the starting lineup?

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